Snapping Shrimp Have Some Of The Fastest Eyes In The Animal Kingdom

You won't get subliminal messages past these guys. Alexandra Kingston, University of South Carolina

Famed for its incredible oversized claw that it can click so fast it creates light, the snapping shrimp, also known as pistol shrimp, just got another accolade to brag about as a new study found they have some of the fastest eyes on the planet. The research, published in the journal Biology Letters, revealed that these tiny animals have superfast vision, essentially refreshing their view 160 times per second.

To test the superfast seeing powers of snapping shrimp, the researchers used thin conducting wire to record the electrical impulses coming from the eyes of Alpheus heterochaelis. They were looking to establish their sampling rate, a term used to describe how often the eye can refresh its view to create an image that isn't blurred by movement, which is measured in Hertz (Hz). They exposed the crustaceans to flickering lights and monitored their response, the result of which revealed they have a temporal sampling rate of at least 160 Hz, meaning snapping shrimp take home the title as owners of the fastest-sampling eyes ever described in an aquatic animal.

The carapace hood over Alpheus heterochaelis' eyes doesn't appear to impact their vision. Alexandra Kingston, University of South Carolina

This kind of hyper-speed vision benefits animals in identifying fast-moving obstacles or targets in complex environments and is a trait often observed in flying animals. The humble pigeon is considered to have one of the faster sampling rates in the animal kingdom, but even they don’t reach the shrimp’s vision speeds with a comparatively modest sample rate of 143 Hz. Compare this to humans, however, who clock a measly sample rate of 60 Hz, and you can appreciate how impressive this is.

The researchers believe this trait is an adaptation in snapping shrimp, who are fast-moving animals, which helps them to detect small objects moving across their field of vision with clarity despite the busy and structurally complex environment they inhabit. It had been previously thought that snapping shrimp couldn’t see all that well due to a carapace that appeared to cloak their eyes. Evidently, the anatomical structure has little impact on the shrimp’s capacity to detect light and detail. The take-home message? Don’t try close up magic on snapping shrimp. They’ll steal your secrets and crush your dreams.


[H/T: Science Mag]


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