Share it! Science : Jeepers Creepers! Animal Peepers

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jeepers Creepers! Animal Peepers


Two recent scientific studies really highlight how fascinating animal eyes are. The first looks at the different ways animals see color and how this impacts camouflage, predation and animal/plant signaling. Scientists at the University of Exeter developed software to convert digital photos into the color scheme that different animals see in. Up until now it has been difficult to use digital photography for this type of research. This software will be helpful to scientists in the future as we continue to study animal physiology and how animals interact with their environment. 

What is most exciting about the software is that anyone can download it for free. I was excited to try it, but found I lacked some of the technical expertise that it might take to use it on my own photos. If you are tech and photography savvy or know someone who is, then you probably will find it interesting. You can find the download at this site.

In the meantime, you can see differences in animal vision by visiting this article from Nautilus science magazine: "How Animals See the World". In this article you can use the interactive pictures to change the image from what a human can see to what an animal sees. You can also visit Jolyon Troscianko's website to see some of his photography using the software he helped develop at the University of Exeter.

For some more interesting insight into animal eyes check out these videos:

 
 

The second study, published in the journal Science Advances, on animal eyes dealt with the shape of the pupils of predatory animals and prey animals. Vertical pupils, like those you might see in a cat or fox, help these predatory animals pinpoint the location of their next meal. This shape of pupil makes it easy to see vertically shaped objects more clearly at further distances and horizontal shapes blurry over fairly small distances. It is thought that this contrast helps the animal triangulate and find exactly where it's prey is.

The horizontal shape of the pupil of many prey animals, like deer, allow greater panoramic vision and help to shield light. These features could help an animal spot a predator from further away. It would be a fun classroom or at-home activity to look at a variety of animal eyes and try to determine what sort of animal it is based on the pupil shape.

Interested in learning more about animal eyes? Check out my blog post: "Just the Right Length: Eyelash Physics" to learn about animal eyelashes, find links to lesson plans and resources about eyes and some suggestions for great books about animal eyes to share with kids.

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