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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2019;41:3-11. doi: 10.1007/7854_2018_60.

The Evolution of Gaze Shifting Eye Movements.

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School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.


In animals with good eyesight most eye movements consist of saccades, which rapidly shift the direction of the eye's axis, and intervals between the saccades (fixations) in which gaze is kept stationary relative to the surroundings. This stability is needed to prevent motion blur, and it is achieved by reflexes which counter-rotate the eye when the head moves. This saccade-and-fixate strategy arose early in fish evolution, when the original function of saccades was to re-centre the eye as the fish turned. In primates, and other foveate vertebrates, saccades took on the new function of directing the fovea to objects of interest in the surroundings. Among invertebrates the same saccade-and-fixate pattern is seen, especially in insects, crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs.


Fixation; Invertebrates; Saccade; Stabilising reflexes; Vertebrates

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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