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Africa Geographic Travel

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.

Crocodilefish
Crocodilefish

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.

Flounder
Flounder
Scorpion fish
Scorpion fish
Trumpetfish
Trumpetfish
Boxfish
Boxfish

For example flounders bury themselves in the sand, their raised yellow eyes poking out just enough so they can ambush prey and spot predators.

Flounder
Flounder
Flounder
Flounder

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.

Mantis shrimp
Mantis shrimp

Octopus eyes, on the other hand, act much like a camera lens and move in and out to focus.

Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus

Beauty combined with practicality: the perfect mix.

Boxfish
Boxfish
Pipefish
Pipefish
White leaf fish
White leaf fish
Shrimp
Shrimp
Cuttlefish
Cuttlefish
Ornate ghost pipefish
Ornate ghost pipefish

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Aaron Gekoski is a filmmaker, writer and photographer (both land and underwater). He specialises in raising awareness on the plight of threatened species and writes for over 30 publications worldwide. Aaron has recently covered the trades of shark finning in Mozambique, lion hunting in Zimbabwe, seal culling in Namibia, manta ray fishing in Indonesia, and Madagascar’s ‘tortoise mafia’. For more information please visit his website or head to his conservation film and media company.

Africa Geographic Travel