The weird and wonderful world of animal vision

Wednesday, 28 September 2016
The weird and wonderful world of animal vision

Our friends in the animal kingdom don't quite see things as we do. Find out exactly how they use their eyes by reading on...

Birds Eye View

Only one bird can see the colour blue, and that’s the owl. This is perhaps a small compensation for not being able to move their eyeballs – instead, they move their whole head, almost 360 degrees! A further fact about the owl is that it can pick out a moving mouse from 45 metres away. 

Owls are often thought of as the wisest of birds but at the complete other end of the spectrum, is the ostrich, famed for burying its head in the sand. However, if your brain was smaller than your eye you might resort to questionable behaviour too. The best vision among birds and in fact, sharpest among all animals, is the eagle. Its vision is between 20/4 and 20/5. What you could see clearly and in perfect focus at 5 feet, an eagle could from 20. While it may not sound all that impressive, birds of prey can view the world from 15,000 feet up and comfortably detect rodent prey. Eagles have developed the power to see the UV light reflected from little rodents’ streams of urine! Now that’s taking the…mickey!


Pupils and Corneas

Oddly, octopi, sheep, goats and toads share something in common, they typically fall under the category of hunted, rather than hunter. Because of this, they need to be visually aware at all times. Their pupils are horizontally rectangular allowing them a lot more peripheral vision. When it comes to adapting to your environment though, the shark comes out on top. Sharks have a layer of crystals sitting behind their retinas that are mirrored and allow them to see ten times better in misty, dim water than we can in crystal clear water. However, surprisingly, shark eyes and human eyes are remarkably similar in other ways which is why they have been successfully used for human corneal transplants!

Lids and Lashes

Some members of the animal kingdom aren’t content with having one eyelid, or even two, they rely on three. Polar bears have three per eye which helps to filter out harmful UV rays. If you aren’t lucky enough to possess 3 eyelids per eye, browse our Feel Good range of sunglasses. All of them have 100% UV protection. Camels also have three lids per eye but this is a measure to prevent desert sand from getting in. Another step of camel evolution resulting in their eye protection is their 10cm long eyelashes

Escapism

Us silly humans have a tendency to consider the eyes as the ‘gateway to the soul’ but for many poor souls, the eyes are the gateway to getting the hell out of there. Take the humble and delicious oyster lookalike, the scallop. In order to evade the advances of any predator looking for its next meal, it has in the region of one hundred eyes. The dolphin on the other hand, has a slightly different way of handling the pressures of sea predators. When dolphins doze they only keep one eye closed and even more bizarrely, as they sleep, half of the brain stays completely alert while the other half completely shuts down. Animals such as zebras and horses, ‘flight’ animals, tend to have eyes either side of their head which gives them a wider field of vision. Horses have almost 360 vision except for blind spots directly at the front and back. This is why they’re sensitive to being approached from behind and can kick out quite violently. Likewise, it’s the reason that jockeys and showjumpers need to signal their horse to jump over an obstacle.

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