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Experience nature's eye-opening story of Colour and Vision

Opening 15 July at the Natural History Museum.

Warning, disguise, attraction or distraction - colour can be the difference between life and death. Discover how the intertwined history of colour and vision has shaped the beauty of the natural world in a new Natural History Museum exhibition this summer. Colour and Vision, sponsored by LG OLED TV, will take you on a 565 million year journey through the eyes of nature.

More than 350 rarely seen specimens will be on show with immersive art and digital imaging to highlight how colour and vision influence life on Earth. The exhibition gives insight into how animals and humans perceive the world differently and how colour-shifters, stealth experts and mimics deploy colour to survive. 

Examine the very first creature with an image-forming eye and the source of the spectrum of colour on display in the animal kingdom. Bright feathers, metallic beetles and iridescent butterflies illustrate the structural colour and pigments that have inspired dyes and paint in art and design today.

Dr Greg Edgecombe, vision evolution researcher at the Natural History Museum says, 

'Eyes and a brain sophisticated enough to process an image and see rays of light as colour are a profound evolutionary advantage and are vital for survival. Eyes that enable an animal to form an image have evolved six times over 565 million years. These six branches of the tree of life represent nearly all of the animal species ever to have lived on Earth.'

The exhibition opens with a newly commissioned light installation, 'Our Spectral Vision' by British artist Liz West, inspired by Newton's investigation of the colour spectrum and blue morpho butterflies in the Museum's collection. 

Example specimens include:

  • Specimens from the rarely displayed national eye collection. 
  • Natures finest examples of structural colour such as Jewel beetles, Chrysina, and hummingbirds, Trochilidae.
  • The 508 million-year-old fossil arthropod, Sidneyia inexpectans, that proved animals were seeing and eating each other hundreds of millions of years ago.
  • Cochineal insects, Dactylopius coccus, that show how we have used nature to create pigments for dyes and paints.
  • Rose ringed parakeets, Psittacula krameri, whose different colours reveal the visible impact of a mutation in their pigment genes.

Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum says:

'Vision and observation are how we appreciate and understand the world around us. The linked evolution of colour and sight has influenced both the natural world and the world humans create, from art and design to science and technology. For scientists such as those at the Museum, observation is the first step to understanding ecosystems and how to enable their future sustainability.'

Colour and Vision: Through the Eyes of Nature is open at the Natural History Museum from 15 July - 6 November 2016. It will be complemented by a range of evening events including a special colour themed Lates event on 29 July. Buy tickets online at


Notes for editors 

Media preview: Wednesday 13 July, 8.30-10.30

Images: Please download and credit: © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London (Not for publication).

Media contact
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7942 5654/+44 (0) 7799 690151

  • The Natural History Museum welcomes more than five million visitors a year and is a world-leading science research centre. Through its unique collection and unrivalled expertise it is tackling the biggest challenges facing the world today. It helps enable food security, eradicate disease and manage resource scarcity. It is studying the diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems to ensure the survival of our planet.
  • For more information about artist Liz West, go to
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