Why Are Goats' Eyes That Terrifying Shape?

Why Are Goats' Eyes That Terrifying Shape?

New research from the University of Berkeley hopes to finally illuminate why different animals develop a variety of eye shapes. The answer appears to do with whether an animal is prey or a predator, but the study has come under criticism.

What is it that makes a house cat's eyes into threatening, vertical slits, makes a human's pupils circular, and turns a goat's into soulless monster orbs? Scientists from the University of Berkeley in California may have figured it all out.

It turns out that pupil shape has a lot to do with where you land on the food chain.

Goats' eyes, which contain horizontal, rectangular pupils, are extremely adapted for peripheral vision. In other words, they are very good at keeping an eye out for predators, and the same is true for numerous other herbivorous ungulates, such as horses and deer.

Goats actually have about 320-degree vision, thanks to their cautious eyes. Humans, for comparison, have 120 degrees of vision.

Vertical slits are uniquely good at depth perception, or for determining precise distance to a target. Unsurprisingly, these types of eyes are found in ambushing predators, such as house cats and alligators. Taller predators, such as lions or human beings, tend to have circle-shaped pupils, which are not really specialized - the theory is that these animals's height grants the same advantage a vertical pupil would.

The New York Times set up a gallery of various animal eyes, to give you an idea of what to look for:

One of the most surprising facts revealed by the study is in how the horizontal-eyed animals maintain their peripheral vision, when they typically have to angle their heads to chew on grass.

"When they pitch their head down, their eyes rotate in the head to maintain parallelism with the ground," says Martin Banks, a vision scientists with the university. "And that's kind of remarkable, because the eyes have to spin in opposite directions in the head."

The crazy thing is that nobody had ever noticed this behavior before - at least, it did not appear in any paper the scientists went through.

It seems that the researchers aren't seeing eye to eye with their peers, however. The study is far from perfect, say critics; chinchillas, to name one example, are a grazing animal with vertical slits.

All this does nothing to quash my totally rational fear of goat eyes. Am I alone in this? I could barely watch The Muppet Show!

Source: New York Times, Science Advances

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Hmmm, weird... I have heard all of this before... but maybe not from a scientist. I think a survivalist told me about eye position on predator vs prey animals, and it just feels like this is an extension of that. But, yay science, as always.

Baresark:
Hmmm, weird... I have heard all of this before... but maybe not from a scientist. I think a survivalist told me about eye position on predator vs prey animals, and it just feels like this is an extension of that. But, yay science, as always.

It's probably because it's kind of obvious, but this was the first time someone wrote a formalized paper on it.

Also, to the chinchilla thing in the article... Evolution? Duh?
I mean, this is actually really basic and I wonder if there was more to the objection that what the article shows, otherwise it is kind of silly. Evolution always favors whatever trait is most advantageous to the species' current environment. If there is a pressure for chinchillas to develop forward-looking slitted eyes (like how they live in colonies where they have sentries that warn the others of predators, therefore having individuals with better eyesight capable of noticing dangers from a distance is better than everyone having a large cone of vision), then they would develop along those lines. There is nothing mysterious about this.

....Um...turd in the punch bowl here, but...gaming news?
Like...what? Is the Escapist basically Gawker right now?

Don't get me wrong, fun little read and if my StumbleUpon had linked me I'd had thumb up-ed it. But...Escapist...

Thank you captain obvious, as others above have stated this is already a known fact. What has been learn't here? University of Berkeley, I suggest studying questions that have not already been answered.

Silentpony:
....Um...turd in the punch bowl here, but...gaming news?
Like...what? Is the Escapist basically Gawker right now?

Don't get me wrong, fun little read and if my StumbleUpon had linked me I'd had thumb up-ed it. But...Escapist...

Why does these comments appear everytime they post articles in the Science & Tech section of this site, the one that is right up there to the top right of the front page, a section they have had for about three or four years now. They even had a regular Science & Tech podcast!

RicoADF:
Thank you captain obvious, as others above have stated this is already a known fact. What has been learn't here? University of Berkeley, I suggest studying questions that have not already been answered.

If the study has come into question, with a counterexample that does not follow the obvious trend, does that still count as a "known fact?"

What I am particularly curious about is the W-shaped cuttlefish eye. I really wonder what kinds of images that forms and what kind of evolutionary advantage it bestows. Goat's eyes are downright mundane in comparison.

image

Silentpony:
....Um...turd in the punch bowl here, but...gaming news?
Like...what? Is the Escapist basically Gawker right now?

Don't get me wrong, fun little read and if my StumbleUpon had linked me I'd had thumb up-ed it. But...Escapist...

~sigh~ yes. Notice how the site has 5 subsections? Notice how this article is in the 'science and tech' section?

Honestly, these sections have existed for so long now I can't understand how people are surprised by the site having content that clearly fits with the named subsections of the site.

Next you'll tell me a cosplay article doesn't fit on a gaming site (even though there's a section labelled comics & cosplay, and has been for years.)

The escapist hasn't been strictly gaming stuff in pretty much forever now.

infohippie:
What I am particularly curious about is the W-shaped cuttlefish eye. I really wonder what kinds of images that forms and what kind of evolutionary advantage it bestows. Goat's eyes are downright mundane in comparison.

image

That is an odd one. If you consider the round, horizontal, and vertical versions, and what they are optimal for, this seems some weird chaotic hybrid.

Anyway, this is definitely an interesting study, even if some of it seems obvious.
The bit about animals with horizontal slit eyes rotating their eyes in their head was especially weird to see. Not something I ever would have given much thought before. It does make sense, but... Odd to see it happen.

I was going to say that we knew this already, abut apparently everyone knew already that we knew this already.

Interesting observation for sure, not so sure it has much of a solid scientific background.

It is also interesting that we keep talking about evolution in reverse. Goats didn't just wake up one day and decide they need horizontal pupils to survive, it's animals with that genome having an easier time surviving while millions of other species without them got eaten to extinction.

certainly interesting. a small detail i think lots of people, as my self, didnt really pay attention too.

infohippie:
What I am particularly curious about is the W-shaped cuttlefish eye. I really wonder what kinds of images that forms and what kind of evolutionary advantage it bestows. Goat's eyes are downright mundane in comparison.

image

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042698913000539

Bow before my Google-fu, plebeian! :P

Seriously thought, it is actually pretty interesting. Apparently it polarizes the light that enters the eye and reduces glare, thus providing better contrast underwater during the day. Quite fascinating.

An intereting information. I never really paid attention to their eyes before to notice that the slit stay parallel to the ground.

Based on the tone of this article, I'm supposed to be under the impression that it's common to find goat's eyes unsettling, yet this is the first time I've ever heard anyone refer to their eyes in such a way.

Personally, I find them adorable.

Scrythe:
Based on the tone of this article, I'm supposed to be under the impression that it's common to find goat's eyes unsettling, yet this is the first time I've ever heard anyone refer to their eyes in such a way.

Personally, I find them adorable.

I always thought goat's eyes were designed by Satan himself, but there you go. Yay science! It's interesting to think of humans as apex predators, but it makes total sense. High intelligence + tool construction + advanced problem solving + animal cunning = trouble for pretty much every other animal.

GabeZhul:

infohippie:
What I am particularly curious about is the W-shaped cuttlefish eye. I really wonder what kinds of images that forms and what kind of evolutionary advantage it bestows. Goat's eyes are downright mundane in comparison.

image

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042698913000539

Bow before my Google-fu, plebeian! :P

Seriously thought, it is actually pretty interesting. Apparently it polarizes the light that enters the eye and reduces glare, thus providing better contrast underwater during the day. Quite fascinating.

Huh, that is fascinating! Thank you!

RicoADF:
Thank you captain obvious, as others above have stated this is already a known fact. What has been learn't here? University of Berkeley, I suggest studying questions that have not already been answered.

^Yeah, this. Seriously, this is news? I've known this eye stuff since I was six.

So what about human eyes? Where do they land us on the food chain? What are they specialized for?

Arnoxthe1:
So what about human eyes? Where do they land us on the food chain? What are they specialized for?

We're Predators mate. Forward Facing and great depth perception were two great things for us when hunting and fighting.

I've known this for three decades. This is old news. If the best "research" they can do is something that's been done decades ago and been taught in classrooms all those years, then I think some researchers are desperate for their grant money.

Baresark:
Hmmm, weird... I have heard all of this before... but maybe not from a scientist. I think a survivalist told me about eye position on predator vs prey animals, and it just feels like this is an extension of that. But, yay science, as always.

I think that you might be wrong about what they're actually talking about. I'd heard the eye position thing too, with prey having their eyes on the side of their heads, and predators having them more forward facing.

What this study is talking about is that the pupil shape itself, for shorter animals at least, is also for the purpose of increased peripheral vision.

As well, I'd never heard about the fact that the eye's orientation rotates depending on the head's inclination before, which is pretty neat.

GabeZhul:

It's probably because it's kind of obvious, but this was the first time someone wrote a formalized paper on it.

A lot of "obvious" things aren't true, and a lot of true things are counter-intuitive. As such, it's nice to see it codified in a paper, because it validates the existing assumption, not because it was already true.

If we go by what's known, bumblebee flight violates the laws of aerodynamics, duck quacks don't echo, and we can't come from monkeys because there are still monkeys.

Silentpony:
....Um...turd in the punch bowl here, but...gaming news?
Like...what? Is the Escapist basically Gawker right now?

Don't get me wrong, fun little read and if my StumbleUpon had linked me I'd had thumb up-ed it. But...Escapist...

I agree. This should not have been posted in gaming news. Fortunately, it wasn't.

Johkmil:

Why does these comments appear everytime they post articles in the Science & Tech section of this site, the one that is right up there to the top right of the front page, a section they have had for about three or four years now. They even had a regular Science & Tech podcast!

And they had non-gaming stuff on here for years before that rebrand.

The Almighty Aardvark:

Baresark:
Hmmm, weird... I have heard all of this before... but maybe not from a scientist. I think a survivalist told me about eye position on predator vs prey animals, and it just feels like this is an extension of that. But, yay science, as always.

I think that you might be wrong about what they're actually talking about. I'd heard the eye position thing too, with prey having their eyes on the side of their heads, and predators having them more forward facing.

What this study is talking about is that the pupil shape itself, for shorter animals at least, is also for the purpose of increased peripheral vision.

As well, I'd never heard about the fact that the eye's orientation rotates depending on the head's inclination before, which is pretty neat.

I understand eye location is not the same as pupil shape. This does feel like an extension of that same concept, was my point. For instance, knowing how an eye works, the shape of a goats pupils would give them enhance peripheral vision by a matter of course. But, I'm not a scientist, so it's always beneficial when a an actual scientists steps in and confirms what I have been taking for granted.

GabeZhul:

Dude, this random outburst of yours is so insulting to my intelligence that I should flag your post. Seriously, why do people on the internet always assume that others are stupid?

Yeah, except it wasn't an outburst (or random), and it didn't assume you were stupid. If you want to flag it, flag it instead of complaining how "insulting" it was.

You've conflated "has been known" with "has been assumed/rationalised." That's not how science -or- knowledge works. I simply corrected you.

 

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