It’s the middle of the night, and you hear scurrying in the walls.
You sit up in bed and wonder if they can truly see in darkness?
When humans fail to see in the dark, we use our sense of touch to make up for the shortcomings of our sense of sight.
In a very similar fashion, rats use their whiskers to navigate their surroundings.
This allows them to feel their way through dark areas.
Can Rats See in the Dark With Their Eyes?
Visually, rats fare poorly in the darkness because they are simply not engineered that way as animals.
Despite this fact, research done by the University of Sheffield on rats has shown that they generally can cope extraordinarily with unfamiliar surroundings.
Studies also reveal that the rats move their whiskers in a unique forward and backward manner.
This helps them make decisions on whether they can proceed or not. This is known as the process of ‘whisking.’
The Magic of Whiskers
Whiskers on a rat protrude from the front of their face to send information to their brain about what lies ahead of them.
Rats use their whiskers in the same way that we use our hands, that is, to decipher details like size and texture.
Nevertheless, new research has uncovered the extent of assistance that whiskers provide.
Rats can adjust their whiskers diurnally and nocturnally.
The adjustments allow these rodents to ‘whisk’ their way through a series of obstacles and arrive at their intended end goal.
Researchers found that rats also extend their whiskers further forward when they detected an area full of obstacles.
Diurnal Vision in Rats
Other works by researchers have shown that rats are colorblind!
They determine colors by the amount of brightness, as opposed to the colors themselves.
Diurnal rat-vision has been likened to a human-vision with red-green colorblindness.
These impairments, coupled with low contrast issues, cause rats much difficulty in discerning accurate shapes and sizes of objects ahead of them.
It may be interesting to note that albino rats are entirely blind!
Previous studies proposed that rats see entirely without color and only in black and white.
However, recent scientific discoveries have proven otherwise.
These scurrying scavengers perceive two colors with the color cones of their eyes: red and green.
Everything is perceived with a red filter in the darkness, not unlike cinematic depictions of rats running around.
Conversely, human eyes are not equipped with a cone that visualizes a blue ultraviolet color.
This cone allows rats to see waste left behind by other rats and also enhances vision in the dark.
However, one common trait they share with humans is that their eyesight also deteriorates with age.
Depth Perception and Field of Vision
Eyes on either side of their head allow these little creatures a large field of vision.
Still, this comes with a shallow depth of perception.
To overcome this, rats use upward and downward head motions to send distance estimations to the brain.
This is known as ‘motion parallax.’
Another exciting aspect of vision, which humans share with our fellow mammals, is a blind spot right in the center of our fields of vision.
Each eye makes up for a loss of details from the other eye to create balanced visuals.
One distinct difference between humans and our furry friends is that each eye can simultaneously look in different directions!
Looking up and forwards at the same time allows rats to stay alert should danger come from any order.
You’re probably already imagining them scurrying all over your shoulders!
Still, for our readers who treasure rats as pets, be sure to feed them well to ensure that their health and eyesight are in tip-top shape!