Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, using miniaturised high-speed cameras and high-speed behavioural tracking, discovered that rats move their eyes in opposite directions in both the horizontal and the vertical plane when running around.
Rats process visual information from their eyes similar to other mammals. Nevertheless, their eyes move in a very different way. Unlike humans, their eyes can move in opposite directions.
© MPI for Biological Cybernetics/Kerr
Each eye moves in a different direction, depending on the change in the animal’s head position. An analysis of both eyes’ field of view found that the eye movements exclude the possibility that rats fuse the visual information into a single image like humans do. Instead, the eyes move in such a way that enables the space above them to be permanently in view – presumably an adaptation to help them deal with the major threat from predatory birds that rodents face in their natural environment.Like many mammals, rats have their eyes on the sides of their heads. This gives them a very wide visual field, useful for detection of predators. However, three-dimensional vision requires overlap of the visual fields of the two eyes. Thus, the visual system of these animals needs to meet two conflicting demands at the same time; on the one hand maximum surveillance and on the other hand detailed binocular vision.
ContactDr. Jason Kerr
Dr. Jason Kerr | Max-Planck-Institute
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