Wolves and Dogs Speak With Their Eyes
Kay-africa, Wikimedia Commons
Animals and insects see the world in unique ways. From fish, to dogs, to birds to shrimp, super-eyesight allows them to thrive in places others can't.
Dung beetles, for example, have internal compasses that are sensitive to the sun, Marie Dacke of Lund University and her colleagues have determined. In a paper published in the latest Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, she and her team explain that solar cues and skylight help guide where the beetles roll their coveted balls of poop.Video: 5 Incredible Insect Superpowers
shmoomeema, Wikimedia Commons
Siberian huskies evolved colorful, almond-shaped eyes to see in low light, desolate northern regions. A quirk of genetics is that an individual dog may have two differently colored eyes. A single eye may also feature two colors. It's known as a "parti" or "split" eye.Photos: Ugliest Dog Contenders
Chameleons can rotate and focus their eyes separately to look at two different objects at the same time, according to the San Diego Zoo. This gives chameleons a full 360-degree view around their body.Photos: Chameleon Colors Act Like a Mood Ring
Ants have vision "superpowers," interactive media designers and artists Chris Woebken and Kenichi Okada believe. Using their ant apparatus, humans can see as ants do by placing microscope antennas on their hands (ants have these on their heads) that transmit a 50-fold magnified view of wherever the person's hand is resting.33 Bizarre New Ant Species Discovered
Imagine if you spent most of the day looking up from below. That is what escolar, a large and mysterious deep-sea fish, do, according to a new study by Eric Warrant of the University of Lund and colleagues. Escolar use this technique to "sit and wait" for prey, hoping something tasty will swim over them.
Tomasz Sienicki, Wikimedia Commons
Shrimps have some of the most complex visual systems in the animal kingdom. Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland and his team found that some shrimp stare down prey before attacking with a movement that is so swift that it actually boils water in front of the shrimp. (The other temperate water surrounding the shrimp prevents it from cooking itself to death!)
Stewart Butterfield, Flickr
Most animals, including humans, have round pupils, but the eyes of goats (toads, octopi and a few others too) tend to be horizontal and rectangular with rounded corners. This broadens the horizon that they see, enabling them to better spot predators.
Pen Waggener, Flickr
Bird eyes, such as those of the eagle seen here, feature oil droplets located in the front, Doekele Stavenga of the University of Groningen and colleagues have discovered. The droplets serve as "microlenses" that help to filter and direct light.On the Hunt for Bald Eagles
The eyes of certain animals, such as raccoons and cats, glow in the dark. Their eyes have a light-reflecting surface, known as the tapetum lucidum, which makes this possible. Depending on the animal, the glow takes on certain colors. Cats tend to have eyes that glow green. Miniature schnauzer eyes will sometimes glow turquoise, according to Colorado State University ophthalmologist Cynthia Powell.
Alexander Vasenin, Wikimedia Commons
Cuttlefish, a type of mollusk, are the transformer visionaries of the animal kingdom. They reshape their entire eyes to adjust to what they see. Humans and many other species, in contrast, usually just reshape their eye lenses to get a better look at something.
Giant squid have the largest eyes in the world, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. At up to 10 inches in diameter, the human head-sized eyes help giant squid to see in deep water. It's believed that they can detect a moving sperm whale from 394 feet away.Giant Squid Photos
Fernando Mafra, Fotopedia
We create a mental map of our surroundings in our brain. As Michael Land of the University of Sussex explains, "To interact with objects in the world we need to know where they are, whether they are in our field of view or outside it. Objects in memory have to move in the brain as we move through the world, otherwise they would be not be in the right place."
Wolves and dogs can communicate using their eyes alone, suggests a new study in the journal PLoS ONE.
The color of the face around the eye, the eye’s shape and the color and shape of both the iris and the pupil are all part of the elaborate eye-based communication system, according to the research, which could apply to humans as well.
Sayoko Ueda of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kyoto University led the study, which compared these characteristics of the face and eyes among 25 different types of canines.
The researchers identified three basic patterns:
A-type: Both pupil position in the eye outline and eye position in the face are clear.
B-type: Only the eye position is clear.
C-type: Both the pupil and eye position are unclear.
“A-type faces tended to be observed in species living in family groups all year-round, whereas B-type faces tended to be seen in solo/pair-living species,” Ueda and colleagues wrote.
Wolves and dogs exemplify the A-type. Humans fit into this category too! Such individuals invite you to look into their eyes. The researchers even suspect that the white of the eye (sclera) evolved, in part, to set off the darker hues of the iris and pupil.
Animals like foxes exemplify the B-type. For them, some information is likely conveyed by the eyes to others, but not much.
Then there is the elusive C-type, exemplified by animals like bush dogs. Their all-dark eyes blend in with their furry faces. The researchers point out that “various predators camouflage their eyes to increase their hunting success.” Consider that if you don’t know what an individual is looking at, you can’t predict his or her behavior.
Following the eyes can reveal interests and where an individual might go next. Both wolves and dogs are adept at following human gazes.
“The fact that the studied (canine) species with A-type faces tended to engage in group living suggests that they use the gaze signal in communication among group members, as the need for communication is larger for group-living species than for solo/pair-living species,” the researcher wrote.
They added, “Group-hunting species had significantly lighter iris color (an important factor of gaze-signaling eyes) than those of solo hunting species. These results suggest that the gaze signal is used for communication during group hunting in many of these species.”
Since we’re social mammals too, perhaps we are revealing more about ourselves and our mental states with our eyes than we fully realize.
Photo: A wolf rests in the snow at Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Doug Smith, National Park Service