Now scientists have recently discovered that dragonflies have the best vision in the animal kingdom. The insect has up to 33 different types of light sensitive proteins so that it can see more colors and details that humans and any other known species. s
At Sokendai, Kitasato University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba, Japan, researchers from the Tokyo University of Agriculture studied the compound eyes of 12 dragonfly species. They found that dragonflies have between 15 and 33 opsin genes which enable them to see in incredible detail.
According to the study published in the journal PNAS, Opsins are light sensitive proteins found in the retinas of humans and animals. Having between 15 and 33 is according to researchers, ‘an extraordinary large number.’ Humans have tri-chromatic vision. We see in red, blue and green and have just three opsins. Each opsin absorbs one color of light in the spectrum. The various wavelengths of light reflected from objects mix together enabling us to see some 10 million different colors. Tri-chromatic vision is common among mammals, birds, and other animals, including some insects.
While it is impossible for scientists to see through dragonfly eyes, researchers believe the insects are able to see more colors than humans. Previous studies have found that each of a dragonfly’s bulbous eyes are made up of up to 30,000 facets that contain the opsins. Each facet points in a slightly different direction. This multidirectional feature enables dragonflies to see in all directions at the same time. Dragonflies can also see ultraviolet as well as blue, green and red, which aids them in hunting prey.
When a dragonflies visual sensing elements combine, they produce a variety of ‘images’ which are combined in the creature’s brain to create its vision. How this actual happens is still a mystery.