Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Is an animal's agility affected by the position of its eyes?

Date:
February 23, 2010
Source:
Wiley-Blackwell
Summary:
New research has revealed the relationship between agility and vision in mammals. The study sampled 51 species to compare the relationship between agility and vision between frontal eyed species, such as cats, to lateral-eyed mammals such as rabbits, to establish if the positioning of the eyes resulted in limitations to speed and agility.

Researchers sampled the relationship between agility and vision between frontal eyed species, such as cats, to lateral-eyed mammals, such as rabbits, to establish if the positioning of the eyes resulted in limitations to speed and agility.
Credit: iStockphoto/Steve Snowden

New research from scientists in Liverpool has revealed the relationship between agility and vision in mammals. The study, published in the Journal of Anatomy, sampled 51 species to compare the relationship between agility and vision between frontal eyed species, such as cats, to lateral-eyed mammals, such as rabbits, to establish if the positioning of the eyes resulted in limitations to speed and agility.

"Footballers do it, cheetahs do it, and even sedentary academics can do it. We all have the ability to visually track an object whilst on the move and you don't give a second thought to the effort involved," explained co-author Dr Nathan Jeffery from the University of Liverpool. "As you walk or run your head swings up and down, tilts from side to side and rotates. Three semicircular canals of fluid found on each side of the skull sense these movements, one for each direction. These then send signals via the brain to three pairs of muscles that move the eyeball in the opposite direction and ensure that you can keep your eye on the ball, gazelle or the beer in your hand."

This process, known as the vestibulo-ocular reflex, is affected by the directions sensed by the canals and the pull directions of the eye muscles. In mammals, the eyes can be on the side of the head, as with rabbits, or at the front of the head like in cats, however the position of the canals is basically the same. In some mammals the brain must do extra calculations to adjust the signal from the canals to match the different pull directions of the eye muscles.

"In our study we wanted to find out if these extra calculations placed any limitations on how fast an animal could move," said co-author Phillip Cox. "We asked if there could be a point whereby, if an animal moves too quickly it could result in the brain being unable to adjust the signals from canal to muscle planes, which in turn would result in blurred vision." The work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The team used MRI scanners to analyse the arrangement of canals and eye muscles in 51 species of mammal including giraffes, camels and zebra, tree shrews, bats and sloths. Astonishingly, the team found that the position of canals and eye muscles had no effect on the ability to see clearly at speed. In theory, a Sloth could travel as fast as a Cheetah without blurring its vision.

The team also found evidence suggesting that the role of the extraocular muscles switches with changes of eye position. For instance, muscles that make up-down compensatory movements in frontal-eyed species appear aligned for torsional movements in lateral-eyed species. Before this, scientists had assumed that major rewiring of the connections was essential to adapt the reflex to changes of eye position.

"Switching between muscles offers an economical way of adapting the vestibulo-ocular reflex to changes of eye position without major rewiring of the connections or changes of canal orientations," concluded Dr Jeffery. "The mammalian brain can apparently cope with the extra demands placed on it whether the eyes are at the front, side or almost at the back of the head."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wiley-Blackwell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nathan Jeffery, Philip G. Cox. Do agility and skull architecture influence the geometry of the mammalian vestibulo-ocular reflex? Journal of Anatomy, Published Online: Feb 22 2010 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01211.x

Cite This Page:

Wiley-Blackwell. "Is an animal's agility affected by the position of its eyes?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100222200856.htm>.
Wiley-Blackwell. (2010, February 23). Is an animal's agility affected by the position of its eyes?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100222200856.htm
Wiley-Blackwell. "Is an animal's agility affected by the position of its eyes?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100222200856.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) — Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) — Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) — A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) — Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins