Despite evolutionary distance, researchers say.
Ever wonder how animals see the world? New research suggests that animals, or mammals at least, see the world the same way humans do. In a study published in the Nov. 25th issue of Biology Letters, researchers from Japan and France report that the eye view of ponies, dolphins, chimps, and humans are surprisingly similar despite having evolved in different environments.
In the study, the researchers used touchscreens to test the visual perception of three ponies: Ponyo, Nemo, and Thomas.
The ponies were shown two shapes on the touchscreen, one of which the researchers arbitrarily decided was correct. The ponies received a carrot piece as a reward when they tapped their muzzle on the “right” answer.
The researchers then compared the results with studies on dolphins, chimpanzees, and humans. Taken together, the studies implied that these four mammals thought the same sort of shapes were similar.
“It’s remarkable that mammals, even with these differences in physical appearance and living environments, evolved to have the same sort of visual perception,” Tomonaga said.
“Perception and cognition, that is, making use of sensory information to understand the world are separate processes. Ultimately, I think we can use this finding as a starting point to understand what goes on in the minds of mammals.”
See also: What can we hope to learn about animal minds?
Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?
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Here’s the abstract:
Mammals have adapted to a variety of natural environments from underwater to aerial and these different adaptations have affected their specific perceptive and cognitive abilities. This study used a computer-controlled touchscreen system to examine the visual discrimination abilities of horses, particularly regarding size and shape, and compared the results with those from chimpanzee, human and dolphin studies. Horses were able to discriminate a difference of 14% in circle size but showed worse discrimination thresholds than chimpanzees and humans; these differences cannot be explained by visual acuity. Furthermore, the present findings indicate that all species use length cues rather than area cues to discriminate size. In terms of shape discrimination, horses exhibited perceptual similarities among shapes with curvatures, vertical/horizontal lines and diagonal lines, and the relative contributions of each feature to perceptual similarity in horses differed from those for chimpanzees, humans and dolphins. Horses pay more attention to local components than to global shapes. (paywall) – Masaki Tomonaga, Kiyonori Kumazaki, Florine Camus, Sophie Nicod, Carlos Pereira, Tetsuro Matsuzawa. A horse’s eye view: size and shape discrimination compared with other mammals. Biology Letters, 2015; 11 (11): 20150701 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0701
Horse and rider work together on the details for best results: