A Rare Chance To See What The World Looks Like To A Dragonfly

Colour and Vision, Natural History Museum ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 24 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

A Rare Chance To See What The World Looks Like To A Dragonfly Colour and Vision, Natural History Museum 5
Liz West's captivating artworks greets visitors to this exhibition. Copyright Trustees of NHM

We see the world in dazzling colour from deep pinks and reds in a sunset, to bright green rolling hills. But we rarely question why we evolved to see this way. That's the topic tackled by the Natural History Museum's latest exhibition.

We're greeted by artist Liz West's dazzling coloured light art installation, but then we're plunged into darkness to start our evolutionary journey. It's very apt as life originally evolved without a sense of sight.

Early creatures largely developed a sense of sight to capture their prey, and we see some bizarrely shaped Trilobites (marine fossils) with towers for eye stalks and even one with a trident like horn — scientists still don't know what this was for.

The creepy wall of eyes is fascinating and a little disturbing, a screen of human eyes adds to this and is a benefit of having LG sponsoring the exhibition. Copyright trustees of NHM

The creepiest installation is the wall of eyes, with preserved peepers belonging to everything from a sun bear to a Greenland shark. Human eyes also appear on video screens to complete the evolutionary picture.

This exhibition is jam packed full of preserved specimens including Charles Darwin's pet octopus, colourful birds and butterflies, and a whole host of taxidermied mammals — including tigers and a giraffe's neck.

This central column contains many great specimens. Copyright the trustees of NHM.

A clever interactive screen shows scenes as we would see them, compared to how other creatures see them. We found out that dogs only see in two colours, unlike our three. But before we feel too superior we learn that dragonflies see in four colours and the mantis shrimp in a mind-bending 16.

This is how a dragonfly sees an average landscape.

There's so much to learn from this show: How colour is used to attract a mate, how it indicates an animal is poisonous. Sometimes colour is just coincidental — the iridescence of some beetle shells is purely down to the material they are made of.

A beautifully iridescent giant jewel beetle. Copyright Trustees of NHM

The whole show is full of easily digestible facts and a plethora of great specimens. This is yet another perfect family exhibition from the Natural History Museum.

Colour and Vision is on at Natural History Museum is on from 15 July - 6 November. Tickets are £10.80 for adults and £5.40 for children.

Also still on are the Sensational Butterflies, and don't forget our other top picks for July.

Last Updated 15 July 2016