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Superior underwater vision in a human population of sea gypsies

Gislén, Anna LU ; Dacke, Marie LU ; Kröger, Ronald LU ; Abrahamsson, Mats; Nilsson, Dan-E LU and Warrant, Eric LU (2003) In Current Biology 13(10). p.833-836
Abstract
Humans are poorly adapted for underwater vision. In air, the curved corneal surface accounts for two-thirds of the eye's refractive power, and this is lost when air is replaced by water [1]. Despite this, some tribes of sea gypsies in Southeast Asia live off the sea, and the children collect food from the sea floor without the use of visual aids [2]. This is a remarkable feat when one considers that the human eye is not focused underwater and small objects should remain unresolved. We have measured the visual acuity of children in a sea gypsy population, the Moken, and found that the children see much better underwater than one might expect. Their underwater acuity (6.06 cycles/degree) is more than twice as good as that of European... (More)
Humans are poorly adapted for underwater vision. In air, the curved corneal surface accounts for two-thirds of the eye's refractive power, and this is lost when air is replaced by water [1]. Despite this, some tribes of sea gypsies in Southeast Asia live off the sea, and the children collect food from the sea floor without the use of visual aids [2]. This is a remarkable feat when one considers that the human eye is not focused underwater and small objects should remain unresolved. We have measured the visual acuity of children in a sea gypsy population, the Moken, and found that the children see much better underwater than one might expect. Their underwater acuity (6.06 cycles/degree) is more than twice as good as that of European children (2.95 cycles/degree). Our investigations show that the Moken children achieve their superior underwater vision by maximally constricting the pupil (1.96 mm compared to 2.50 mm in European children) and by accommodating to the known limit of human performance (15-16 D) [3]. This extreme reaction-which is routine in Moken children-is completely absent in European children. Because they are completely dependent on the sea, the Moken are very likely to derive great benefit from this strategy. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Current Biology
volume
13
issue
10
pages
833 - 836
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • pmid:12747831
  • wos:000182903300019
  • scopus:0038394481
ISSN
1879-0445
DOI
10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00290-2
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
9cfff97d-3d10-4b23-a775-01ea7323b342 (old id 310971)
alternative location
http://www.current-biology.com/content/article/abstract?uid=PIIS0960982203002902
date added to LUP
2007-09-03 10:25:03
date last changed
2017-07-30 03:42:33
@article{9cfff97d-3d10-4b23-a775-01ea7323b342,
  abstract     = {Humans are poorly adapted for underwater vision. In air, the curved corneal surface accounts for two-thirds of the eye's refractive power, and this is lost when air is replaced by water [1]. Despite this, some tribes of sea gypsies in Southeast Asia live off the sea, and the children collect food from the sea floor without the use of visual aids [2]. This is a remarkable feat when one considers that the human eye is not focused underwater and small objects should remain unresolved. We have measured the visual acuity of children in a sea gypsy population, the Moken, and found that the children see much better underwater than one might expect. Their underwater acuity (6.06 cycles/degree) is more than twice as good as that of European children (2.95 cycles/degree). Our investigations show that the Moken children achieve their superior underwater vision by maximally constricting the pupil (1.96 mm compared to 2.50 mm in European children) and by accommodating to the known limit of human performance (15-16 D) [3]. This extreme reaction-which is routine in Moken children-is completely absent in European children. Because they are completely dependent on the sea, the Moken are very likely to derive great benefit from this strategy.},
  author       = {Gislén, Anna and Dacke, Marie and Kröger, Ronald and Abrahamsson, Mats and Nilsson, Dan-E and Warrant, Eric},
  issn         = {1879-0445},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {10},
  pages        = {833--836},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {Superior underwater vision in a human population of sea gypsies},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00290-2},
  volume       = {13},
  year         = {2003},
}