How animals see the world

There are many untrue myths floating around about animal vision, but did you ever stop to think how animals actually see? This video explored just that, and while it may not be fully accurate, it’s definitely good enough to give us a good idea.

Dog Vision

Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t see the world in black and white, although they don’t really see as well as humans; they are very nearsighted, and looking at something that’s isn’t really close makes things quite blurry for them. They do have a wide peripheral vision though. More info on how dogs see the world here.

Cat Vision

Cats, like dogs and many other animals, have a tapetum lucidum — a reflective layer behind the retina. While this allows them to see better in the dark, it reduces their overall visual acuity. Cats have a visual field of view of about 200°, compared to 180° in humans, but a binocular field (overlap in the images from each eye) narrower than that of humans.

Bird Vision

Vision is the most important sense for birds since good eyesight is essential for safe flight. This group has a number of adaptations which give visual acuity superior to that of other vertebrate families. Of course, different types of birds see differently, but they do have some things in common. Birds of prey especially have a very high density of receptors and other adaptations that maximize visual acuity.

Fly Vision

Fly eyes have the fastest visual responses in the animal kingdom. They also have compound eyes, with thousands of individual visual receptors, called ommatidia. Each ommatidium is a functioning eye in itself, and thousands of them together create a broad field of vision for the fly. They can also see a broader spectrum of light than humans.

Snake Vision

Snake vision varies wildly, but overall it differs greatly from that of humans. The main trend is that it can sense thermal signatures. Pit vipers, pythons, and some boas have infrared-sensitive receptors in deep grooves on the snout, which allow them to “see” the radiated heat of warm-blooded prey mammals

Shark Vision

Sharks can’t see color, but of course, they see much clearer underwater.

Fish Vision

Fish don’t really see like sharks do, which is somewhat surprising, but they do have ultraviolet color receptors — something which again, we don’t have. Fish eyes are similar to terrestrial vertebrates like birds and mammal but have a more spherical lens. Deep water fish are adapted to seeing in low light.

Rat Vision

Rat vision is quite blurry, around 20/600 for normally pigmented rats. Albino rats, however, are probably blind or severely visually impaired, with about 20/1200 vision. They can, however, move their eyes individually, which is quite interesting.

7 thoughts on “How animals see the world

  1. Adelaide McAllister

    How do we REALLY know? We can guess…by the shape of their eyes and what not but we can’t be 100% positive. We’ve been wrong many many many times before about things…

  2. Amyah Labrèche-Docq

    I am not sure about this. Cats can pinpoint clearly a mouse or a bird from afar, birds see a worm, an insect or whatever from high in the sky, dogs see colors ~ I had dogs and know they have preferences for blue, yellow or green or red toys and are uninterested by the other colors, for exemple. How could we have a real and true knowledge of this… it is just speculations. And… I think also that there is way more important things to research than this and to spent research money too…

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  4. Jackalope

    Think big picture. Knowing how something sees can help scientists develop all sort of helpful technologies. Take for example the honeybee; if experiments like these found that they were naturally attracted to one color more than another, or outright rejected some flowers based on color, that would make big difference on what people choose to plant to help restore the bee population (since bees are integral to the survival and proliferation of most plant species and thus most insect and even human species).

    Also, understanding how different animals see can help us understand how to solve problems that humans face, like color-blindness or even complete blindness. Try to consider the big picture – if millions of scientists all over the world are spending time and money to study things like this about animals and the environment, it would be safe to assume that it's NOT a waste of money or time, and that instead you haven't thought out or researched WHY it's important.

    Please remember that opinions are much more insightful and valuable overall when time to read, research and ruminate has been taken (whereas uninformed opinions that stem from ignorance, assumption, or lazy thinking are neither useful nor particularly insightful).

  5. Amyah Labrèche-Docq

    I understand your point but from there to say that a cat and a dog don't see colors or can't see from afar… well… this is not true from my experience with animals (and I have a lot of experience with that)… this is my point. That scientists research how a bee, a fliy, a snake or whaterver other animal can see with a different kind of perception is great and can help to understand or create new ways to help people with vision problems… which is wonderful… but… statements that are not really exact are not ok and this is why I reacted to this article.

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