The Best Eyesight in the Animal Kingdom

With such a variety of eyes in the animal kingdom, what species has the best vision? Which animal sees the most color? Which can see the most detail? Or see the best in darkness? Let's get into it.

Eyes come in all different shapes and sizes, and the position and shape of the eyes can dramatically impact an animal's survival. For example, predators that hunt by ambushing their prey usually have eyes on the front of their heads. Why? Because frontally positioned eyes allow for better focus and improved ability to calculate distances. By contrast, prey animals, like deer, usually have eyes on the side of their heads to allow for a wider field of vision so they can spot predators.

But with such a variety of eyes in the animal kingdom, what species has the best vision? Which animal sees the most color? Which can see the most detail? Or see the best in darkness? Let's get into it.

How Eyes Work

Light waves reflect off objects and enter the eye through the pupil (the black circle in the center of your eye). Once in the eye, light is focused via optical components within the eye. For example, the cornea, iris, pupil, and lens help focus light onto the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye. Photoreceptors in the retina translate light into neural signals that the brain can then process into images. In addition, the pupil can expand or contact to let more or less light into the eye.

Which Animal Sees Best in Darkness? (Night Vision)

To see well in the dark, eyes need to capture as much available light as possible. Owls have some of the best night vision in the animal kingdom. Their eyes are tube-shaped and very large to allow more light to enter. They also have five times the rod density that our eyes do. And finally, they also have an additional layer behind the retina, which allows light to be reflected back onto the retina one more time, sharpening their vision.

The colossal squid has massive soccer ball-sized eyes that allow them to capture light even in the ocean's dark depths. And some fish, like the Brownsnout Spookfish, even have mirrors in their eyes.

Which Animal Has the Best Color Vision?

Although humans love color, many creatures in the animal kingdom can see far more color than we do. The animal with the best color vision is the bluebottle butterfly. Humans have three types of cones in our retina - blue, green, and red. In contrast, the average butterfly has six kinds of cones, and the bluebottle butterfly has a whopping 15 types.

Which Animal Has the Sharpest Vision?

In this category, we're looking for the animal with the best visual acuity - the ability to focus on images at a given distance. For example, you might have heard perfect human vision described as "20/20" vision. This means you can see clearly at a distance of 20 ft. In contrast, eagles have 20/5 vision. This means that at 20 ft, they could see an object with the same clarity we would see at 5 ft. Eagles are an example of a bird of prey, and all birds of prey can see objects with clarity at great distances. They can do this because they have more photoreceptors at the back of their eyes than we do. In addition, they also have panoramic sight, allowing them to see a wider field of vision. For example, the peregrine falcon can see a rabbit more than three kilometers away.

What About Human Vision?

You might be wondering how human vision stacks up in the animal kingdom. Are our eyes remarkable in any way? Yes. Humans have the best vision of all mammals. We can see a wide range of colors and have good visual acuity. Scientists think we evolved good eyesight because of our exposure to snakes. Humans have spent more time around snakes than other mammals, and over time, we evolved to be able to spot these threatening predators.

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