Bugs have better vision than previously thought, new study suggests

The human eye, on the other hand, has a single lens sitting atop a densely packed retinal photoreceptor array that bends and bulges to focus on an object, no matter how near or far away.
By Cliff Mooneyham | Sep 06, 2017
A new study published in the journal eLife is challenging scientists' long-held assumption that insects are unable to see high-resolution images.

Until now, scientists believed insects' compound eyes, which usually consist of thousands of tiny eye-units, only allowed a pixelated view of the world because of their inability to accommodate, or change lens shape, to keep an object in sharp focus.

The human eye, on the other hand, has a single lens sitting atop a densely packed retinal photoreceptor array that bends and bulges to focus on an object, no matter how near or far away.

But researchers from the University of Sheffield in the UK, along with collaborators in Cambridge, Lisbon, and Beijing, have discovered that insect compound eyes can produce much more high-resolution images than previously thought because the photoreceptor cells beneath the lenses move rapidly in and out of focus.

The researchers made the discovery by stimulating intact insect eyes with light and then recording the movements with a specially made microscope and a high-speed camera system.

They also found that the way an insect eye takes in visual images is closely attuned to its naturally twitching head and eye movements.

"From humans to insects, all animals with good vision, irrespective of their eye shape or design, see the world through fast saccadic eye movements and gaze fixations," said lead author Mikko Juusola, a professor of Systems Neuroscience at the University of Sheffield's Department of Biomedical Science, in a statement, adding, "Our results suggest that by adapting the way photoreceptor cells sample light information to saccadic eye movements and gaze fixations, evolution works towards optimizing the visual perception of animals."

---

Have something to say? Let us know in the comments section or send an email to the author. You can share ideas for stories by contacting us here.

Comments
Comments should take into account that readers may hold different opinions. With that in mind, please make sure comments are respectful, insightful, and remain focused on the article topic.