There are people living among us, with capabilities we could easily call superpowers, and in most cases, they are not even aware of it. It turns out a tiny percentage of women actually develop a genetic condition called “tetrachromacy“, enabling them to see the world in hundred times more colors than the rest of us.

The superpower is actually attributed to faulty genes encoding light-sensitive cones that detect light in the retina, resulting in four cones to develop instead of the normal three. Since these genes are coded in the X chromosome, only women can express this phenotype (sorry guys!). The presence of an extra “yellow cone” allows these superwomen to distinguish some 100 million colors, while the rest of us only get to see about a million. You can imagine the condition as the exact opposite of being color-blind.

A study on female carriers of anomalous trichromacy, a condition that causes color-blindness in male offspring, showed that a small percentage of carriers could indeed detect discrete color nuances that no one with normal vision could. This can only be explained by the existence of an additional cone as a consequence of mutated x chromosomes.

While super-human vision sounds very exciting, it unfortunately does little in terms of functionality in day-to-day life. Even though it will most likely never help fight crime, it still is pretty amazing from a scientific point of view.

Check out the video bellow for more on tetrachromacy, enjoy!


By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna