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VS298: Animal Eyes

This seminar will survey the wide variety of eye designs and visual systems found in the animal kingdom. Students will lead discussion each week based on readings from Land and Nilsson’s book, Animal Eyes, in addition to other articles from the literature.

InstructorBruno Olshausen

Enrollment information:

VS 298 (section 4), 2 units
CCN: 66495

Meeting time and place:

Thursdays 6-8, Evans 560


  • Animal Eyes by Michael Land and Dan Nilsson (Amazon)
  • Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved by Ivan Schwab (Amazon)
  • In The Blink Of An Eye: How Vision Sparked The Big Bang Of Evolution by Andrew Parker (Amazon)


Date Topic/Reading Presenter
Jan. 26 Chapters 1,2: The origin of vision, Light and vision
Feb. 2 Chapter 3: What makes a good eye?
Feb. 8 (Wed.) Chapter 4: Aquatic eyes: the evolution of the lens

Feb. 16 Chapter 5: Lens eyes on land
(hilarious video vestibular-ocular reflex in chickens)
Feb. 23 Chapter 6: Mirrors in animals
Wagner et al. article + Macropinna microstoma video
Steve, Asako
Mar. 1 Chapter 7: Apposition compound eyes Robert
Mar. 8
Note: 4:00
How Eyes Evolved – special topics
(public lecture at 12:00 in the Redwood Center)
Ivan Schwab
Mar. 15 ‘Chick eyes’
Wallman & Winawer article
Chris Wildsoet
Mar. 22 A theory of slit pupils Marty Banks
Mar. 29 [Spring recess]
Apr. 5 Binocular vision in birds
martin-jov09 + snyder-miller-nature78
Apr. 12 Chapter 8: Superposition eyes
Yack article
Apr. 19 Chapter 9: Movements of the eyes
Gilchrist et al. article + Schilstra & van Hateren article
Apr. 26 Evolution of visual systems
Shimizu_Bowers_1999 + Hanlon_2007 + Kaas_revised_2013
Dillon, Lucas
May 3 Dog vision dog-vision-miller-murphy + left-gase-bias-in-dogs Benji