Scientists discover cockroaches use long-exposure photography technique to see in the dark

by Gannon Burgett

posted Monday, March 16, 2015 at 11:02 AM EST


Researchers at the University of Oulu in Finland have discovered cockroaches possess a very unique method of seeing in the dark.

As nocturnal creatures, it’s long been known that cockroaches are able to see in the dark. But it wasn’t until scientists decided to determine just how adept cockroaches are at the task that scientists discovered the insects have the ability to capture what are essentially long-exposure photographs in their heads, giving them the ability to see in what would be pitch black to most other creatures.

With the help of a cockroach-scale virtual reality simulator and micro electrodes implanted in a cockroaches' eyes, the scientists determined cockroaches possess the ability to retain trace amounts of light over an extended period of time, allowing the insects to turn darkness into a cohesive image.

Stacked macro photograph of the dried-out eye of a Madagascar hissing cockroach

Just how dark are we talking? According to the research, each photoreceptor in the cockroach’s eye absorbs a single photon every ten seconds -- the equivalent darkness of a moonless night.

Researchers are hoping to determine just how the method works in order to improve night-vision technologies in the future.

(via Geek)

Image credits: Hissing Cockroach Eye by Jasper Nance and Cockroach by Tom Spinker used under Creative Commons