Small creatures see the world in slow-motion

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

fly face
He’s watching you… in slow-motion.

Have you ever had a fat lazy fly buzzing around your house? No matter how many times you aim and fire a newspaper at the annoying insect, you always seem to miss it by that much. Are you not a bigger and better animal? Why can’t you smack it?! According to researchers from the Trinity College Dublin (TCD), it’s because smaller animals can see time in slow-motion!

This super-slow perception allows tiny organisms to see movement on a finer time scale. Just think about large animals such as elephants and giraffes. They seem to move a bit slow don’t they? Well, to them, we are the small animals, so it’s like we can perceive their movements on a finer time scale! According to Kevin Healy, the lead author of the study, “The ability to perceive time on very small scales may be the difference between life and death for fast-moving organisms such as predators and their prey.”

However, while size is important, it isn’t the only factor. Age also plays a huge role in determining how time is perceived. “Younger people can react more quickly than older people, and this ability falls off further with increasing age,” said Andrew Jackson, a co-author of the work at TCD. The animals with the fastest visual systems include squirrels, starlings, and pigeons. The animals with the slowest system were the European eel, and surprisingly, the blacknose shark!

According to the researchers, this study shows how impressive the brains of all organisms really are, large or small. This includes those annoying flies that can apparently respond to visual stimuli four times faster than the human eye! I guess there’s no point in shooing them away when they see humans as sluggish giants.

Images courtesy of JJ Harrison on Wikipedia.