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A new eye tracker for understanding how animals use their eyes



Animals use vision to gather information about predators, mates, and food. Most non-human vertebrates have their eyes positioned on the sides of their heads, rather than on the front. However, very little is known about how these animals use their eyes to gather the information they need to interact with their environment. In a recent paper published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Purdue Biology doctoral student, Luke Tyrrell (in Prof. Fernández-Juricic's lab) and others present an eye-tracking system they developed. The authors were able to learn how starlings track prey items moving across a screen and how they detect predators approaching from far away. With this novel system, scientists can start answering fundamental questions about how animals with laterally placed eyes see their world, which could offer insights into the evolution of the visual system, as well as address management issues based around animals' perception of man-made objects, such as wind turbines.

Source: Tyrrell, L.P., S.R. Butler, J.L. Yorzinski, and E. Fernández-Juricic. 2014. A novel system for bi-ocular eye-tracking in vertebrates with laterally placed eyes. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5:1070-1077.

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