Maximum running speed is the most important variable influencing mammalian eye size other than body size, according to new research from anthropology associate professor Chris Kirk and physical anthropology doctoral student Amber Heard-Booth.
“If you can think of mammals that are fast like a cheetah or horse, you can almost guarantee they’ve got really big eyes,” Kirk says. “This gives them better vision to avoid colliding with obstacles in their environment when they’re moving very quickly.”
Kirk and Heard-Booth are the first to apply Leuckart’s Law — a hypothesis that was developed specifically for birds and speed of flight — to 50 species of mammals. The paper was published in the journal Anatomical Record.