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Extraordinary Eyes

Meet animals that have a superpowered sense of sight 

Lucas Bustamante/NaturePL.com

What if you could see in the dark? For some animals, abilities like this are part of life.

Animals use sight to hunt prey, avoid predators, and communicate. Their eyes work in the same basic way as human eyes do. Special cells in the eye collect light from the environment. These cells send signals to the brain, which creates the images we see.

What if you could see in the dark? For some animals, abilities like this are part of life.

Animals use sight to hunt prey. They use their eyes to avoid predators. And they need to see each other to communicate. Animal eyes work in the same basic way as human eyes do. Special cells in the eye collect light from the environment. These cells send signals to the brain. This creates the images we see.

The structure of an animal’s eyes affects how it views the world. So does the number of eyes that it has and where they are placed. 

Read on to meet four animals with unique adaptations for vision. Their eyes let them see things no human could.

The structure of an animal’s eyes affects how it views the world. So does the number of eyes that it has and where they are placed. 

Read on to meet four animals with unique features for vision. Their eyes let them see things no human could.

Michael Quinton/Minden Pictures

Owls: Light Collectors

Human eyes are built to see in daylight. After dark, it’s hard to make out our surroundings. Owls don’t have this problem. They hunt at night. So their eyes are adapted to soak up a lot of light. This gives them vision clear enough to spot prey even in the dim light of the moon and stars.

Owls’ eyes are enormous—much larger compared with their body size than those of many other animals. When it’s dark out, holes called pupils expand to cover the front of the owls’ eyes. The extra-large openings let in a lot of light. Where a human sees a dark forest, an owl sees a scene that’s nearly three times as bright!

Human eyes are built to see in daylight. After dark, it’s hard to make out our surroundings. Owls don’t have this problem. They hunt at night. So their eyes are adapted to soak up a lot of light. This gives them vision clear enough to spot prey even in the dim light of the moon and stars.

Owls’ eyes are enormous. They are much larger compared with their body size than those of many other animals. When it’s dark out, holes called pupils expand to cover the front of the owls’ eyes. The extra-large openings let in a lot of light. Where a human sees a dark forest, an owl sees a scene that’s nearly three times as bright!

Paul Starosta/Getty Images

Praying Mantises: Seeing All Sides

What if you could see in front of you and behind you at the same time? A praying mantis can! The insect’s head can rotate 180 degrees to view its surroundings and potential prey. Two bulging eyes sit on its swiveling head. In between these big eyes are three much smaller, simpler eyes.

What if you could see in front of you and behind you at the same time? A praying mantis can! The insect’s head can rotate 180 degrees. This lets it view its surroundings and things to eat. Two bulging eyes sit on its turning head. In between these big eyes are three much smaller, simpler eyes.

Sebastian Janicki/Shutterstock.com

Spiders: Night Vision

Not all spiders have the same number of eyes. Most species of spider have eight eyes. But some spiders have two, four, six, or even zero eyes!

Most spiders have poor eyesight. They rely on other senses—touch, taste, and feel—to hunt prey. But their eyes are well adapted for the dark. They can even sense small changes in light and dark. 

Not all spiders have the same number of eyes. Most species of spider have eight eyes. But some spiders have two, four, six, or even zero eyes!

Most spiders have poor eyesight. They rely on other senses to hunt prey. But their eyes are well adapted for the dark. They can even sense small changes in light and dark.

iStockPhoto/Getty Images (Horseshoe Crab); Ingo Arndt/NPL/Minden Pictures (Compound Eye)

Horseshoe Crabs: Eyes All Over

Horseshoe crabs have been around for millions of years. They’re called living fossils because they haven’t changed much over that time. Horseshoe crabs have eyes all over their bodies, including one on their telsons (tail-like body segments)!

The crab’s two compound eyes are the largest. Compound means the eyes are made up of many tiny lenses. Through these eyes, the horseshoe crab sees multiple images instead of just one. Compound eyes help horseshoe crabs find mates. 

The crab’s other eyes are much smaller. They help the crab sense light and dark, especially when swimming.

Horseshoe crabs have been around for millions of years. They’re called living fossils. That’s because they haven’t changed much over that time. Horseshoe crabs have eyes all over their bodies. They even have an eye on their tail!

The crab’s two compound eyes are the largest. Compound means the eyes are made up of many tiny lenses. Through these eyes, the horseshoe crab sees multiple images instead of just one. Compound eyes help horseshoe crabs find mates. 

The crab’s other eyes are much smaller. They help the crab sense light and dark. That’s especially useful when swimming.

An owl has 2 eyes. A zoo exhibit has 6 owls. How many owl eyes are there in the exhibit? Draw an array to find the total.

An owl has 2 eyes. A zoo exhibit has 6 owls. How many owl eyes are there in the exhibit? Draw an array to find the total.

2A. A praying mantis has 5 eyes. There are 4 praying mantises on a log. What is the total number of eyes? Write an equation.

2A. A praying mantis has 5 eyes. There are 4 praying mantises on a log. What is the total number of eyes? Write an equation.

2B. What are other equations you can write to find the answer to part A?

2B. What are other equations you can write to find the answer to part A?

Some spiders have 8 eyes. Draw all the arrays that show a product of 8.

Some spiders have 8 eyes. Draw all the arrays that show a product of 8.

A horseshoe crab has 5 times as many eyes as an owl. How many eyes does a horseshoe crab have? Draw an array to represent the total.

A horseshoe crab has 5 times as many eyes as an owl. How many eyes does a horseshoe crab have? Draw an array to represent the total.

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