A 5 September, 2017 article in eLife by scientists from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Biomedical Science (along with collaborators in Beijing, Cambridge and Lisbon) indicate that insects may be able to see better than previously believed.
Insects have compound eyes, made up of thousands of lens-capped “eye units” that cannot move or adjust themselves based on what they are looking at. Theoretically, this should give them a low-resolution view of the world, like a pixelated picture.
Insects Don’t Live in a Pixelated World, After All
However, this new study seems to indicate that their vision is more high-res than expected. It turns out that while their eye lenses do not move based on what the creature is seeing, photoreceptive cells beneath the surface do, and quite quickly;
Using fruit flies as subjects, the researchers were only able to notice the movement by using a special microscope with a high-speed camera. The movement was so fast that it could not be detected with the naked eye alone.
This indicates that the fruit flies, and presumably similar creatures, can see the world in far more detail than previous expected, even allowing for hyperacute vision.
“By using electro-physiological, optical and behavioral assays with mathematical modelling we have demonstrated that fruit flies (Drosophila) have much better vision than scientists have believed for the past 100 years,” said researcher Mikko Juusola.
In contrast, the human eye only has one lens, which is capable of changing shape based on how near or far things are. This large lens can focus light on the densely-packed retinal photoreceptor array that is within the human eye, allowing us to see high-res images.
The team working on this study will now get to work seeing if similar processes occur with other insects, with plans to also investigate the vision of vertebrates. In the meantime, the horror-movie directors could start working on a remake of the classical The Fly, one in which the mutant sees its victims in very high resolution.
Image Source: Wikipedia