Some nocturnal animals have the amazing ability to see things at night almost as well as we can see during the day. But how do they do it?
It all comes down to light passing through their eyes and forming a picture of what they see in their brain. We do the same thing during the day, but their eyes are specially adapted to process images with less light available.
One way they do this is by having LARGE EYES! Owls and Tarsiers are examples of animals with huge eyes that let in tons of light. This helps them see objects clearly in the dark.
Other animals, like cats, have a mirror-like surface on the back of their eyes that reflect light back out to the photo receptors...this gives them a second chance to "see" what is out there...and makes their eyes glow at night! Fun Fact: This is the same technology used in car headlights to help us see better at night when we are driving.
Toads slowly collect light before sending the image to the brain...so a toad is "seeing" something a few seconds late...this gives them the chance to gather more light to form a clear picture...though it is a little slow :)
Here is a deep dive into nocturnal animals that your kiddos might enjoy...after you watch this, you can read our activity below to see how you can activate your OWN night vision...no fancy gadgets required!
Activate your Night Vision Activity!
Next time you are around a campfire and it is COMPLETELY dark out, try this activity and see how well your night vision works!
First...wait until it is super dark out. Even moonlight will dilute the results!
Second, close and cover one eye...maybe use an eye patch or tie a bandana around your head with the one eye closed and covered. It is super important (and hard!) not to peek so a bandana might make it easier.
Next, with your one open eye, watch your campfire for 15 minutes. Parents can set a timer for this...maybe now is a good time to toast some marshmallows or poke the stick with a fire. But don't look away! You need to keep looking at the fire for 15 min.
After 15 minutes, look away from the fire and cover the eye that you have had open. Take off the bandana and open up the eye that you have kept protected. You should be able to see really clearly with the eye that was covered! Your super powered night vision will only last for a little while, but it is neat to see the night through the eyes of a nocturnal animal.
Stay Wild and Free!