Extreme mobility of mantis shrimp eyes

Scientists uncovered fresh findings of the most mobile eyes in the animal kingdom - the eyes of the mantis shrimp.


Mantis shrimp have extraordinary vision and even has the ability to see the polarisation of light. They have extream mobile eyes that don’t stop moving. With this ability, they apparently go out of their way to move their eyes as much as possible.

Now a collaborative study by the Bristol scientists along with University’s Ecology of Vision Laboratory enlightens the shrimp’s limits of this incredible mobility to discover at what point mantis shrimp have to steady their gaze.

Scientists discovered that indeed, even while stabilizing in the horizontal direction, they can’t resist rolling their eyes.

This is completely counter-intuitive; the whole point in stabilizing gaze is to keep the appearance of the world around them steady, but by rolling their eyes ‘up’ suddenly becomes ‘sideways’ and the world gets very complicated.

And the fascinating is, in whatever position they roll their eyes, it literally doesn’t impact on shrimps. They can still reliably and accurately follow the motion of a pattern that is moving sideways.

Scientists also discovered the reaction if the world starts revolving around shrimps. They thought the shrimps will roll their eyes to follow their surroundings. They did not.

Ilse Daly from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and lead author of the study said: “It would be like you tipping your head on its side, then back to normal and all angles in between all while trying to follow the motion of a target.

“Just to make things even more confusing, the left and right eyes can move completely independently of one another, such that one eye could be oriented horizontally, while the other could be twisted completely through 90 degrees to be on its side

The mantis shrimp visual system seems entirely immune from any negative effects of rolling their eyes. Indeed, it appears as though rolling has absolutely no effect on their perception of space at all: up is still up, even when their eyes have rolled completely sideways. This is unprecedented in the animal kingdom.

Scientists further want to check the presence of such a one of a kind movement recognition framework and completely investigate how it gives mantis shrimps a reasonable perspective of the world paying little respect to how much or how rapidly they’re rolling their eyes.

Their findings are published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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