The eyes have it – incredible ways of seeing the world

By Ed Yong | April 27, 2011 6:38 pm
heteronectes
bobtail-squid
box_jellyfish
cavefish
chiton
eye
eye_intro
mantis_shrimp
raccoon
spookfish
sunburst_beetle
zebrafish

Comments (12)

  1. Lee Zimmerman

    Here are some others for your collection. Eagles have visual pits which act like binoculars. Cheetahs don’t have foveas, instead they have a foveal streak, probably designed to see most acutely along a plane. Most birds seem to have more discerning color vision than we do – instead of three distinct spectrally sensitive cones they have four or more. Pit vipers have infrared sensing organs that are spatially structured like a second pair of eyes.

    Even more amazing than the fact that we can see is that nature seems to have found many different ways of doing it.

  2. And one more: “The barreleye (Macropinna microstoma) has extremely light-sensitive eyes that can rotate within a transparent, fluid-filled shield on its head…” http://lpb.fieldofscience.com/2009/02/barreleye-fish-macropinna-microstoma.html

  3. Looks like aquatic creatures are winning the competition for having the weirdest eyes. Fancy chiton even having eyes – they look so primitive.

  4. jamie

    So, would the brownsnout spookifish eyes be the first example of a Newtoniam reflector used by animals? No mention of trilobite eyes?

  5. mckinnley

    So is there a specific scientific reasoning as 2 why certain col

  6. amphiox

    Looks like aquatic creatures are winning the competition for having the weirdest eyes. Fancy chiton even having eyes – they look so primitive.

    That’s most likely just an artifact of the fact the things have been living in aquatic environments for much longer than terrestrial ones. (And many of the terrestrial lineages already had fairly advanced eyes at the point in the time when they first colonized the land….)

  7. Matt B.

    Don’t forget the fish with internal eyes and a transparent head.

    When the mantis shrimps acheive sentience and high technology, they’re going to have a hell of a time creating realistic movies.

  8. Noumenon

    This seems to be the thread where this comment should have gone, the other one is empty.

    In the animal kingdom, eyes have evolved dozens of times.

    This kind of took me aback. Are eyes especially notable for this? I don’t think you’d say livers or lungs have evolved dozens of times. Do you mean that eyes evolved in multiple eyeless animals, or just that evolution produced multiple different kinds of eyes?

  9. Noumenon

    Is there anything else you would say evolved “dozens of times”? I only see a couple different kinds of wings, a couple different kinds of teeth, et cetera. Venom is something I could say evolved many times.

  10. “Do you mean that eyes evolved in multiple eyeless animals, or just that evolution produced multiple different kinds of eyes?”

    Both.

    “Is there anything else you would say evolved “dozens of times”?”

    Yep, venom is a good example. Also asexuality, bioluminescence, armour, sociality, flightlessness, gliding…

  11. dave chamberlin

    There is a science book out called ‘In the blink of an eye; how vision kick started the big bang of evolution” by Andrew Parker. He argues that vision happened precisely 543 million years ago and kick started the Cambrian Explosion. I don’t buy his hypothesis, for one thing if vision evolved dozens of times it is damned unlikely it all happened at the same time. Ed Yong have you read this this book, or started it and decided you had better things to do.

  12. Parker’s hypothesis doesn’t suggest that all eyes evolved at the same time; rather, it suggests that the first eyes (and really, the first image-forming eyes) triggered a runaway evolutionary arms race between predator and prey. So the repeated evolution of vision doesn’t disprove his idea. That being said, I don’t buy it. Parker’s explanation always struck me as being a bit human-centric. It makes too much of the importance of vision and downplays the importance of other senses, which can provide substantial amounts of information over longer distances.

    Parker’s latest book also suggests that the stories of the Book of Genesis are surprisingly accurate and accord with science, which doesn’t really instil confidence in the rest of his ideas.

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