SPECIES: Frater­cula arc­tica


iD magazine - - Nature -

Fifty, 100, 200 feet— Frater­cula arc­tica dives deeper and deeper into the sea, all the while re­peat­edly snap­ping its beak with unerring pre­ci­sion. Its prey do not stand a chance— even though this light­ning-fast hunter isn’t re­ally in its own el­e­ment. That oc­curs far above the wa­ter. But how does this an­i­mal man­age to ori­ent it­self so per­fectly in this alien en­vi­ron­ment? Re­searchers have dis­cov­ered: It’s a unique vis­ual sys­tem that has made Frater­cula arc­tica one of evo­lu­tion’s suc­cess sto­ries. Not only does each eye have an up­per and lower eye­lid, there is an ad­di­tional third eye­lid known as a nic­ti­tat­ing mem­brane. Dur­ing the hunt for her­ring and smelt, the third eye­lids work like a pair of gog­gles to cover the corneas while the an­i­mal is in the wa­ter and al­low it to see clearly for dozens of yards— and cap­ture its fill of prey.

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