If you are a squirrel….
Smaller animals tend to perceive time as if it is passing in slow motion, a new study has shown.
This means that they can observe movement on a finer timescale than bigger creatures, allowing them to escape from larger predators.
Insects and small birds, for example, can see more information in one second than a larger animal such as an elephant.
The work is published in the journal Animal Behaviour.
“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,” said lead author Kevin Healy, at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland.
The reverse was found in bigger animals, which may miss things that smaller creatures can rapidly spot.
- Animals with the fastest visual systems in the database included golden mantled ground squirrels, starlings and pigeons
- The starling lives in large groups and forms massive swirling flocks which might be related to its need to keep track of where its mates are and avoid collisions
- One species of tiger beetle runs faster than its eyes can keep up, according to the team. It essentially becomes blind so needs to stop periodically to re-evaluate its prey’s position
In humans, too, there is variation among individuals. Athletes, for example, can often process visual information more quickly. An experienced goalkeeper would therefore be quicker than others in observing where a ball comes from.