This is why your eyes are amazing

Despite being things we look at probably more times during the day than anything else, eyes get little recognition for how incredible they are.

One of the reasons is simply because they work so well. It’s only when something goes wrong that we actually stop and start to appreciate how fortunate we’ve been.

To shed a little love on our underappreciated peepers, let’s take a look at a few optical facts that will be sure to open your eyes to how amazing they truly are.

All eyes began developing about 550 million years ago

The first eyes developed around 550 million years ago to detect light. This allowed very primitive animals to establish day/night cycles and coordinate their behaviour.

All eyes evolved from this single origin. But they didn’t stay so simple for long. Today there are a variety of different types of eyes, all with their unique advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, birds of prey have much greater visual acuity than humans, and some, like diurnal birds of prey, can even see ultraviolet light.

96% of animal species have eyes

You would think eyes were pretty essential for everyday functioning and navigating in the world. And clearly those with them have a significant survival advantage over those that don’t.

Some animals, however, have evolved without a need for vision and so are eyeless. For instance, the blind legless lizard (yep, that’s its name), lives underground and survives thanks to its impressive sense of smell.

Likewise, the widemouth blindcat, a type of freshwater catfish, lives in the darkest depths and has no externally visible eyes. The blindcat senses motion from vibrations and is apparently the top predator in its habitat.

Your eye took 360,000 generations to evolve

To find out exactly how long the modern complex eyes of today took to evolve, researchers at Lund University took a simple light-sensitive patch and started making tiny improvements.

They made such changes that the passing of time would normally make, such as adding a lens and constricting the opening, and soon enough — after 1,800 improvements — they had a complex, image-forming eye.

The researchers concluded that it would take about 360,000 generations to achieve the same in nature — the equivalent of a few hundred thousand years. That’s a lot of trial and error behind your peepers.

Charles Darwin didn’t understand eyes

Not one to lack an understanding of any part of the human body, Charles Darwin admitted he was stumped when it came to the evolution of the eye. He believed the idea that the eye “could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.’

But where Darwin failed, Dawkins excelled. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of the eyes, explaining their step-by-step path as “organs of utility”, unlike say “luxury organs” like a deers antlers or peacock’s tail.

This doesn’t deny the aesthetical value of the eye and its clear role in the mating ritual. But rather it shows the beauty that is inherent in functional evolution.

You are what you see

Over a whopping 80 percent of all your memories are determined by what you see.

One way we know this is because people who were born blind can’t see anything in their dreams. As most people who are blind lose their vision later in life, they can dream visually. But even so, as time passes, a blind person is less likely to dream in pictures and may experience more olfactory, auditory, and sensorial dreams.

Scallops can have over a hundred eyes

I didn’t even know scallops have eyes, let alone that they need fifty to one hundred good ones to get by.

Their function is a bit of a mystery, but some researchers discovered by showing them movies of food (moving particles moving on a screen), that they are probably for assessing conditions for optimal feeding.

With such particular eyes, the only other case in the animal kingdom is the deep-sea spookfish. No points for guessing why its called a spookfish — check out this rare footage of one for a look at some of the eeriest eyes on the planet.

Your eyes get the biggest workout of all muscles

You would think your most active muscles would be in your hands, feet, forehead, or even somewhere in your gut.

But as they are constantly moving to adjust to light and refocus, helping you blink up to 20 times a minute, and compensating for every little movement of your head, the most active muscles in your body are by far in your eyes.

Even when your eyes are closed and you are asleep they’re moving in what’s known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s thought such movements are due to bursts of activity in the visual cortex that occur when you’re dreaming.

The eyes are a universal symbol of religion and culture

Over millennia, many traditions and groups of people have used eyes as religious and cultural symbols.

There’s the hamsa, the palm-shaped amulet that’s popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. An open right hand with an eye in the middle, the hamsa is a sign of protection and is believed by many to be a defense against the evil eye.

The evil eye is a curse or legend that exists in many cultures and is used to describe a malevolent glare or force that can be given to someone when they are unaware. Receiving an evil eye can lead to misfortune, and so many people use talismans or amulets to protect against it.

Then there’s the Eye of God, otherwise known as the Eye of Providence. The Eye of God is the familiar symbol of an equilateral triangle or pyramid with a single eye inside it, usually with rays emanating from it.

It symbolises the omnipresence of God, who sees everything and watches over all things. It is also associated with the Trinity, symbolised by the triangle, and it appears on many coats of arms, currencies, and associations such as Freemasonry, despite it originally being a Christian symbol.

Finally, an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain

Ostriches have a bad rep for being stupid and sticking their heads in the sand or a bush at the first sign of danger.

It is true they aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. An ostrich’s eyes are about the size of billiard balls, and so they take up so much room in their tiny skulls that their brain is smaller than just one of its peepers.

But by being so light and aerodynamic, the ostrich has managed to live over 120 million years. Although they do know how to hide when it matters, the ostrich is also the fastest bipedal runner in the world — capable of reaching speeds up to 45 miles per hour and maintaining it for up to half an hour.

Saying that, with such small brains, they can often end up just running in circles.

Your eyes are amazing. Find out more about them by having one of the most comprehensive eye exams of your life — leave us a comment or get in touch to book your consultation today.