Bug Blog

Study Finds That Insects Have Better Eyesight Than Previously Thought

For the longest time scientists were under the firm impression that insects had bad eyesight relative to other animals. It was thought that flying insects could only make out the shape of objects in their field of vision, and this was how they new how to avoid crashing during flight. It was also thought that insects were unable to make out the details of particular objects. However, a recent study has claimed that insects can, in fact, make out tiny details of objects within their surroundings. It could even be said that insects possess high resolution eyesight.

An insect’s compound eyes are made up of thousands of tiny receptors that move in an out of focus when they are viewing the world. This constant focusing and refocusing has been referred to as “twitching” by researchers. Twitching happens so quickly that it can not be noticed with the naked eye, but this twitching is precisely what allows insects to see the world with such accuracy and sharpness. The researchers who worked on this vision study believe that their findings could help engineers develop superior robotic sensors.

Before this study began entomologists and other scientists believed that insects could not see details in objects; instead it was believed that insects only saw pixelated images. This was the common belief among scientists because they knew that insects possessed a multitude of tiny eye units that each had a lens. Humans, on the other hand, possess one single lens that widens when seeing something of interest, and this is why the world looks clear and detailed to humans. It was assumed that insects could only see pixelated images because they possessed so many lenses. For example, one lense would pick up one image, and a multitude of lenses would make the world appear pixelated. Now, however, researchers have learned that insects do possess sharp vision, but more research is needed on this topic in order to better understand the functioning of insect eyes.

Since insects have to catch small and fast moving insects, would it not make sense for them to have sharp vision? Do you think that in the past researchers made too many claims concerning insect  vision without having conducted proper studies on the topic?