Researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) have discovered that the larvae of the sunburst diving beetle (Thermonectus marmoratus) have bifocal eyes. As far as they are aware, this is the first known example of truly bifocal lenses in the animal kingdom. Previously, only prehistoric trilobites were suspected of having had bifocal vision. Besides being a big hairy deal in the bug world, this news could also have implications for human technology.

The larvae have two retinas and two distinct focal planes, in each of at least four of their eyes (the study concentrated on one set of two eyes). That means that each eye is processing two images, essentially acting as two eyes in one. Like humans with bifocal glasses, the larvae can switch between close-up and distance vision, although their system works much more efficiently than ours. In their version,the unfocused image from one lens is shifted away from the focused image from the other, which the scientists believe could improve their visual contrast. The insects use their bifocal vision mainly for stalking and catching prey, as there aren’t many tiny books or cars in their natural habitat.

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