I can pinpoint the moment my love affair with fish eyes began. I was studying a photograph I’d taken of a crocodilefish in Mozambique: a poorly lit, unexceptional shot of its face. But on closer inspection a couple of things really stood out: its eyes – great globulous bulges – were fringed by golden snowflakes.
I was intrigued. They were one of the most striking features I’d seen on any animal. But why the ornate visual system? Two minutes of Googling revealed that ‘frilly iris lappets’ help break up the black part of the eye and therefore aid in camouflage.
On dives my own eyes began honing in on fish with interesting peepers. They were everywhere; eye sockets painted with ‘make up’, black, cavernous holes, decorated golden protrusions. Much like the crocodilefish’s eyes, most of them served a purpose beyond simple aesthetics.
For example flounders bury themselves in the sand, their raised yellow eyes poking out just enough so they can ambush prey and spot predators.
Mantis shrimps googly appendages can move independently and are the most complex visual systems on Earth: with 16 photoreceptors, they are capable of seeing UV, visible and polarised light.
Octopus eyes, on the other hand, act much like a camera lens and move in and out to focus.
Beauty combined with practicality: the perfect mix.