Ever wondered how animals see the world? Is it the same as us, or better? Worse? Are colors different? Come to think of it, do animals even see color? So many questions. Luckily, scientists have been hard at work trying to assess the ins and outs of animal eyesight, and the answers are pretty intriguing. Before we get into the differences, (hint: it varies between species), let’s spend a word on how they actually know this. After all, we can’t borrow a lion’s eyes to check out his vantage. So how can scientists figure out what the world looks like to animals? Well, it’s all biology. By studying the parts that are actually contained in a specific species’ eyes, for example, rods and cones, they can tell quite a lot. For instance, if an animal doesn’t have any cones, then they know it can only see the world in black and white—no color. Pretty neat, right?
Binocular & Monocular Vision
As we already hinted, there’s not a single answer to our question, because all animals see differently. Horses for example, have binocular and monocular eyesight. Binocular vision is the ability to have each eye share overlapping fields, allowing a single picture to be viewed. Some examples of animals with this type of vision are tigers, foxes, and humans. Monocular vision, on the other hand, means each eye sees its own different picture. This allows the animal to have a greater insight into what’s going on in the world around them, beside them and, in some cases, even behind them. Animals with this type of eyesight include goldfish, deer, birds and rabbits. A horse is unique in having both types of vision, which is a great advantage to them; however, horses cannot see anything directly in front of them—whatever is right between their eyes. We guess you can’t have it all.
Cat & Dog Eyesight
Cats and dogs are the most popular pets, so naturally we have to talk about the eyesight of these lovable cuddlebugs! To begin, they both have binocular vision, like humans. They have amazing peripheral vision and can see a greater amount on either side of them due to their eyes being spread further apart. However, when considering how much is seen directly in front of them, humans can see much more. For a long time, scientists thought cats and dogs were colorblind, but it turns out we might not have been quite right about that. Dogs are thought to be able to tell the difference between red and blue, for instance, but have trouble between red and green. Cats may also see the world in a similar color scale to dogs, though some scientists think it is worse. One thing we do know is that they have fantastic night vision!
Sure, we’ve tried to mimic their constantly hydrated vision with moisturizing lenses like Air Optix Aqua, but there really isn’t much worth imitating when it comes to the eyesight of underwater animals. Sharks, for example, have always been assumed to be an animal with poor vision, which helped explain their ability to detect electric currents in the water. Scientists figured the ability to feel these currents must have been supplementing bad vision. But with more research, it’s turned out that’s not really the case. In fact, a shark eye has a lot of the same parts that a humans has, except they can see much better than us in the water (maybe not such good news for us…). It turns out sharks not only see an estimated 10 times better than humans in water, they can even see in dark and murky water. Now, we aren’t saying they have the best eyesight in the animal world, just that it’s pretty darn good for being underwater. The issue with a shark’s vision is that they can’t always tell exactly what they’re seeing, particularly when going after prey. That’s why scientists often say it’s a mistake when a shark attacks a person—they’ve mixed it up with a seal or some other meal.
Not all sea creatures are as lucky as sharks when it comes to vision though. Starfish, for example, have pretty terrible vision. A Danish study concluded that not only is this animal colorblind, meaning they see only in a grayscale, but they also have slow eyesight. This means they can’t see fast-moving objects. In the sea, where fish are darting around everywhere, it would seem that starfish sure are missing out on a lot. Of course, Mother Nature hasn’t totally jilted them. In fact, starfish have some amazing qualities, like being able to regenerate a limb if they lost one. They just might not be able to see it happen.
As scientists continue to research how animals see the world, we’re sure to keep learning more and more. It’s a pretty exciting field and we love hearing about breakthroughs all the time. Now, for those animals for poor eyesight, if only we could fit them with some contacts…