As is frequently the case, most of the principles for this blog come indigenous actual inquiries asked by patients. ~ above Eye come the Future this day we will certainly be answering among these inquiries I received simply last week, “How do animals see in the dark?”


How exactly does mine dog and also cat run scot-free with a dark room yet I stub my toes and also step painfully on toys?

The answer: it’s every in the design of the eye.

You are watching: Do nocturnal animals have more rods or cones

Thanks for protecting against by, following week top top Eye come the Future we will certainly be discussing… kidding that course.

To answer this inquiry fully, there room actually three major anatomical differences in between the human eye and also animal eyes qualified of great night vision.

Rods versus Cones

As many are aware, the retina is the spanning of the within of the eyeball. Return this thin tissue is only around 3 human hairs thick, the is essentially the ‘film in the camera’ and also is responsible because that sensing the light the enters the eye and transmits the signal ago to the brain where that is processed. The actual cells that sense the light are dubbed photoreceptors and there room two key types: rods and cones. Although castle both are essential in seeing, they do so very, an extremely differently.

Cones are responsible for color vision and high acuity vision but these cell only function in bright light. Pole cells, by contrast, are much less sensitive come colors and fine details but are able to detect irradiate and function in much reduced light situations.

In humans, 90% of ours cones cell are situated in the central part of our vision which allows us vivid, clear, and also colorful main vision, however general poor vision under scotopic (dark) conditions since of a lack of rods in our main vision (graph at right).

By contrast, nocturnal animals have retinas composed greatly or even totally of rods cells, particularly in their central vision. This affords nocturnal animals good night vision; however, their absence of cone photoreceptors leaves these animals with little to no shade vision and an as whole decrease in clarity compared to humans.

Bigger is Better

Since nocturnal animals cannot benefit from the crisp vision the cone cell allow, they need a much larger picture to focus on their retinas. The easiest way to attain this is v a bigger eye and larger eye structures (like a stronger concentrating cornea and also lens as well as a bigger pupil come let in more light). The human being eye is around 24 mm (about 1 inch) in diameter. The eye of nocturnal animals are considerably larger also through the pet itself have the right to be much, lot smaller. The owl is a perfect instance of this since it has actually an eye the is about the dimension of a person eye however gives enough visual info to allow the owl to be a successful night bird of prey. Yet if we are talking size, the most dramatic example and also clear winner that the “Biggest Eye top top the Planet” award goes come the huge squid i m sorry is able come visualize prey in the pitch black color of the ocean’s depths with an eye that’s the size of a dinner plate!!

Tapedum Lucidum

Although larger eyes and specialized retinal cells are certainly useful, nocturnal pets have one final trick up your sleeves to help with night vision. The retina in all pets is a clear, see through tissue. The reason for this is due to the fact that the rod and cone cells that actually sense the light room at the back of the retina, therefore the layers over need come be clean to allow light gain through. Currently in a human eye, once the light goes with the retina it hits the retinal pigmented epithelium or RPE. This slim layer of cells is highly pigmented and absorbs excess light the gets v the retina to mitigate glare/scattered light and also improve all at once clarity of vision.

However, many nocturnal pets like deer, raccoons, cows, horses, and even dogs and cats, have occurred a devoted RPE behind the retina dubbed the Tapedum Lucidum that does the specific opposite. Instead of being highly pigmented come absorb the light that the retina does no collect, the Tapedum Lucidum is a extremely reflective tissue, favor a mirror, that actually bounces the light ago through the retina for a second chance to be detected. This adaptation properly doubles the chance that even an extremely low amounts of light will certainly be detected by the retina. Reflections off of this tin foil prefer Tapedum Lucidum is likewise what causes the brilliant white reflections from the eye of nocturnal creatures, like a deer in headlights or even a picture of the family pet.

We hope you have delighted in this lengthy answer to a quick question. Next time ~ above Eye come the Future, we will certainly be stating polarized lens. How they work, just how they’re made, and also why they room so, so beneficial for clarity and also vision.

See more: What Does Aulani Mean In Hawaiian, Disney Gives Its New Hawaii Resort A Name: Aulani

I’ll leaving you with a photo of our sweet boy, Remy, taking a rest from reeking havoc and showing off his Tapedum Lucidums.