If brain size is proportional to body size in virtually all vertebrate animals, Cornell University biologists reasoned, shouldn’t eye size and body size scale the same way? While they failed to find a one-size-fits-all rule for eyes, what they learned about the 300 vertebrates they studied helps to explain how animals evolved precisely the orbs they need for everyday life.
The biologists reported their findings in the journal Vision Research (August 2004, "The allometry and scaling of the size of vertebrate eyes"). Howard C. Howland, Stacey Merola and Jennifer R. Basarab say they did find a logarithmic relationship between animals’ body weight and eye size for all vertebrates, in general: Bigger animals do tend to have bigger eyes, on average.
But breaking vertebrates into smaller groups -- such as birds, fishes, reptiles and mammals -- and trying to predict their eye size gets more complicated. And dividing all mammals into groups -- such as rodents and primates -- could make a scientist cross-eyed: Compared with all vertebrates, rodents’ eyes are only 61 percent as large as they "should be" if all animals obeyed the general rule, while primates’ eyes are 35 percent larger than those of vertebrates as a whole. Except for gorillas, that is.
Roger Segelken | EurekAlert!
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