The phrase “eagle eye” has some real scientific basis; eagles possess exceptional eyesight. However, birds aren’t the only animals with extraordinary vision. The classes reptilia, cephalopoda and mammalia each contain species with eyesight so precise it could make 20/20 jealous.
Birds of Prey
The Accipitridae family includes all diurnal, or active during the day, birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks and kites. Black hawks, snail kites and the famous bald eagle all have eyesight that is four to eight times better than humans', and eyes proportionally larger than those of other vertebrates. Accuracy and sharpness is the name of the game for these birds, though they also see in color; they’re able to spot prey from up to 1,300 feet away. Birds of prey use their accurate eyesight to make up for a poorly developed sense of smell. Without their “eagle-eyed” vision, they might just starve.
Chameleons are global citizens. These reptiles inhabit Africa, Asia, southern Europe and North America. Chameleons see the world in 360 degrees. To compare, humans generally see around a 180-degree angle. Chameleons have panoramic vision. This is because their eyes are mounted on conical turrets that move independently of one another. Think of a turret as the vertical rod of a spinning toy top and a chameleon’s eye as a free-spinning center. A chameleon’s 360-degree view allows it to see all around its body and grab any snacks that may be trying to hide.
The giant squid, Architeuthis dux, is found in oceans around the world. Elusive in the wild, these cephalopods live in the deep sea at depths between 650 to 3,300 feet. The largest invertebrates in the ocean, their eyes have developed and evolved to help them survive at such great depths. The giant squid has the largest eye of any animal in the world. Roughly the size of a human head, giant squid use their gigantic eyes to gather the small amount of light available near the ocean floor; they may even be able to see bioluminescent light.
You can find some of the most exceptional eyesight right on the family farm. Goats have rectangular pupils that allow them to see a panoramic 320 to 340 degrees. Aside from looking unique and taking in panoramic views, a goat’s eye also recognizes yellow, orange, blue, violet and green from gray shades of similar brightness, a unique characteristic in the world of farm animals.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.