A new study published in Science Advances, led by UC Berkeley scientists, showed a strong relationship between a terrestrial animal's pupil shape and the ecological niche of the animal. The research involved the study of 214 animals. It was found that, generally, ambush predators that are active during the day and night have vertical slit pupils. Taller predators that are active during the day have round pupils. Generally, herbivores which are prey animals have horizontal pupils. Interesting!
“For species that are active both night and day, like domestic cats, slit pupils provide the dynamic range needed to help them see in dim light, yet not get blinded by the midday sun,” said Martin Banks, a UC Berkeley professor of optometry. For animals with vertical slits, it helps them judge the distance of the prey. However, this works best for ambush predators that are close to the ground. Animals with vertical slit pupils can see vertical objects like trees very clearly even if they are not focusing on them. But the ground is blurry unless they focus on it. Having a vertical pupil enables these animals to see clearly even though there is a large field of view.
I think it is really neat to understand this relationship between an animal's ecological niche and its pupil shape. This is something that most of us probably never thought about. Next, the researchers plan to study the eye shape of animals that live in aquatic, aerial and arboreal habitats. It will be interesting to see their results! #ecologicalniche #pupilshape