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With the onset of autumn, the days become shorter, and it gets dark outside quite early. Because of this, people are forced to illuminate everything around them so as not to stop their daily lives. However, in parallel with us live thousands of creatures who can see perfectly in the dark. Early sunset becomes an additional advantage for them, allowing them to carry out many mandatory daily tasks. Such abilities of animals interested people, which gradually led to the appearance of night vision devices. They became a revolutionary discovery that is actively used in our time.
Animals are unique creatures of nature. They exceed human capabilities by many criteria and often amaze us with their abilities. However, this was only sometimes the case. The first mammals appeared about 200 million years ago and were primitive animals that more closely resembled modified reptiles. They gradually evolved into the living creatures we know today.
In parallel with the living creatures of that era, their abilities also evolved. Some of them disappeared due to uselessness, while others became more pronounced. So, one of the main features of some mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects was the ability to see at night. According to scientists' research, the photoreceptors that provide such vision developed in animals that lived during the Jurassic period. At this time, they shared their home with dinosaurs, which had a significant size, weight, and strength advantage. These creatures were active exclusively during the day, so other living animals had to switch to a nocturnal lifestyle. Otherwise, they would have been eaten by their insatiable neighbors.
The desire to avoid direct contact with dinosaurs led to many animals of that time adapting to life at night. After the disappearance of the giant reptiles, some species returned to their origins and began to emerge from hiding during the day. At the same time, thanks to evolutionary processes, night vision remained in some of these animals. They did not lose their skill even after millennia, so today, we can observe many fauna that can be seen at night.
When considering evolutionary processes from a scientific point of view, it is correct to rely on researchers' conclusions. They all found that night vision evolved in animals, creating an imbalance between the rods and cones (cylindrical and conical photoreceptors). The dominance of rods led to the fact that some living creatures that inhabited our planet learned to see in minimal light. This difference increased so much in some species that they could no longer see usually in sunlight. Subsequently, these animals completely switched to a nocturnal lifestyle and have retained this feature.
Despite the external similarity, the organs of vision of animals have little in common with human ones. The same significant difference is observed in the principles of their functioning. Our eyes collect light rays using the pupil. Next, they fall on the lens, which focuses on the image, preparing it for further processing. Then, the retina comes into play. With increased sensitivity to light and cylindrical and conical photoreceptors, its cells process information and send it to the brain. There are four times more rods in the retina, which provide daytime vision, than cones. That is why a person can usually see only in the sun's light or some lighting device.
In animals, the situation is slightly different. In their organs of vision, rods, and cones are imbalanced compared to humans. This difference is relatively small in species that are equally active during daylight and darkness. Thanks to this, such animals can see usually day and night. A striking example of such a living creatures is the cat. She sees well in a minimum of light but leads a predominantly diurnal lifestyle. In some species, the difference in the number of rods and cones is absent or leans towards the latter. We classify these species as those that are nocturnal.
Returning to cats (the animals closest to us), it should be noted that their visual system is built differently than humans. These mammals have relatively large eyes and huge pupils. The latter are three times larger in diameter than human ones. However, this is observed only in the absence of standard lighting, when maximally dilated pupils help cats capture the maximum available light, creating a brighter and clearer image for the animal. Another feature of cats and some other species is the presence of an additional layer of cells in the organs of vision. It has a unique ability to reflect light, which makes it possible to maximize the sensitivity of the organs of sight and improve visibility. This layer of cells reflects light rays and causes a cat's eyes to glow red or green at night).
There are tens of thousands of animal species living on our planet, but only a few can see at night. These representatives of the fauna are often nocturnal or combined with activity during daylight hours. Each animal has its characteristics of night vision, which need to be discussed in more detail.
Popular species with night vision:
If you think that we got NVDs solely thanks to the ability of living beings to see in the dark, then you are mistaken. Various representatives of the fauna gave only an idea that people managed to translate into reality. In creating multiple NVDs, dozens of famous scientists who studied light and conducted experiments played a considerable role.
There are several versions about which animals gave people the idea of designing NVDs. One of them prefers cats. These creatures have lived next to people for a long time, so this option is the most plausible. In addition, cats have a unique eye structure and the principle of their functioning in the dark. Back in 1934, the English inventor Percy Shaw was returning to his native Halifax in his car. He drove at night and on a tough road. At one point, a vehicle's headlights hit a cat sitting on the fence. The rays were reflected in the animal's eyes, and Shaw saw their bright glow. At that moment, he came up with the idea of creating a road reflector that could work the same way as the eyes of the cat he saw. Within a few weeks, he received a patent for his invention, which was at the forefront of creating full-fledged night vision.
In addition to cats, snakes pushed people to invent night vision. These reptiles can recognize infrared radiation, which they see perfectly in the dark. At the same time, they are remarkably oriented during daylight hours. This combination interested some scientists, and they studied the vision of snakes in more detail. The results obtained formed the basis for their inventions. They were primitive and intended for specific purposes.
Nevertheless, these inventions helped create full-fledged thermal imaging devices. According to another version, the idea of creating NVDs was given to people by owls. These amazing birds have huge eyes that can collect light even when little of it exists. The first NVDs were equipped with giant lenses, thanks mainly to owls. This enabled the devices to collect maximum light and create an image of satisfactory quality.
Using modern night optics, few people think about its connection with the animal world. However, it is pretty significant. The night vision of some animals functions the same way as NVDs, and the eyes of many faunas resemble individual design elements of man-made devices.
Typical signs in animals and NVDs:
The ability of animals to see in the dark is a fantastic ability that humans are unlikely ever to be able to develop. However, it was she who became the catalyst for the process of creating night vision devices. Today, these devices are used everywhere, bringing significant benefits to people. In the future, NVDs will be improved, and scientific discoveries made by zoologists worldwide will play an essential role in their evolution. This will bring us even closer to many representatives of the fauna and provide an opportunity to understand their lives better.
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