Small scale: scientists study fish for clues about how humans spot tiny details

The ‘single-pixel’ vision of fish could help scientists to understand how humans identify small stimuli in their environment

fish eye
New research published in Neuron has investigated how zebrafish use a single photoreceptor to spot their prey.

University of Sussex scientists found that zebrafish larvae may use single UV cones at a time to detect the UV-bright microorganisms that they feed on.

The study provides insight into how humans identify small details in their surrounding environment.

University of Sussex Professor of Neuroscience, Tom Baden, explained that zebrafish are good models for understanding how the human eye might work because the fish have an acute zone within their eyes which is an “evolutionary forerunner to the fovea.”

"We found that, in this acute zone, zebrafish are using single photoreceptors to spot their tiny prey – the equivalent of us spotting a star in the sky,” he said.

"There have been suggestions that primates and therefore humans too, use similar tricks to enhance our own foveal vision," Professor Baden added.

Future research possibilities include manipulating visual functions in the zebra fish acute zone to see how this affects their sight.