Research reveals which animals sense time the fastest

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New research reveals that the animals that sense time the fastest are small, flying or marine predators.

These preliminary results are presented by the British Ecological Society on Tuesday, December 20, at the University of Galway’s in Edinburgh, by Dr. It will be presented at the annual meeting by Kevin Healy.

The study, the largest of its kind to date, analyzed the rate at which more than 100 animals perceive changes in the world – this is known as time perception. The researchers found that animals with fast-paced lifestyles have visual systems that can detect changes at higher rates.

Species such as Flies and Dragonflies were most able to detect changes with vision capable of processing at 300 Hz (which can see changes 300 times per second), significantly faster than humans who could see at 65 Hz. In vertebrates, the fastest eyes belonged to the spigot hunters, who could see at 146hz. The Salmon ran at 96hz and the Dogs at 75hz. The slowest eyes belonged to the crown of thorns starfish at 0.7hz.

“Having fast vision helps a species detect rapid changes in the environment. Detection of changes in such detail is very useful if you are moving fast or need to pinpoint the trajectory of moving prey.” Kevin Healy explained.

“Looking at a wide variety of animals, from dragonflies to starfish, our findings show that a species’ perception of time itself is linked to how quickly its environment can change. This can help us understand predator-prey interactions and even how aspects like light pollution can affect some species more than others. “

An unexpected finding from the research is that many land predators have a relatively slow time perception compared to aquatic predators. “We think that this difference may be due to the fact that in aquatic environments predators are constantly adjusting their position as they move for prey, whereas in terrestrial environments, predators that pounce on prey, such as the jumping spider, are not able to do so once the adjustments are initiated.”

Not all animals have fast temporal perception, as it is energetically costly and is limited by how quickly neurons connected to retinal cells in the eye can charge. Animals that do not require quick vision use this energy for other needs such as growth or reproduction.

Variation in the perception of time also occurs within species, including humans; Some studies suggest that in football goalkeepers see changes at a higher rate and coffee can temporarily increase this by a small amount.

The analysis in this research used data collected from multiple studies measuring time perception using flickering light experiments. Each experiment flickered a light and recorded the rate at which the optic nerve sent information using special devices called electroretinograms; These devices also measured how quickly an animal could detect the flashing speed of a light. This is known as the critical vibrational fusion frequency.

Dr. Kevin Healy will present the work at the British Ecological Society annual meeting. This work is currently unpublished. This conference will bring together more than 1,200 ecologists to discuss the latest developments in ecology.

Provided by the British Ecological Society

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