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Meet the Freaky Fish That Can Absorb Its Eyes Back Into Its Head

Most other animals can only retract their eyes a small amount, but the giant guitarfish can basically pull its entire eyeball back into its head.


Blinking is one of those things you never think about — but once you do, you're suddenly very aware every time you blink. (You're welcome!)

 

 

So now that you're thinking about it, why do people blink, anyway? Well, first of all, blinking keeps your eyes from drying out. So most underwater creatures don't do it, seeing as how they're already underwater and all.

But blinking also protects your eyes from dust and grit and other irritants. For fish that live in the open ocean, this still isn't much of an issue. But for fish that live in sandy waters, this seems like a big problem. How do they keep their eyes sand-free if they can't blink?

It turns out a lot of marine creatures — including bottlenose dolphins, frogs and the super-cool mudskipper — pull their eyes back into their heads to keep them clear of danger.

 

But the real champion of eye retraction? The giant guitarfish.

 

Most other animals can only retract their eyes a small amount, but the giant guitarfish can basically pull its entire eyeball back into its head.

 

So sort of like this lady ...

 

 

... but in reverse.

 

Oh, to be a marine biologist, poking a giant guitarfish in the eye — for science!

 

Researchers determined that guitarfish achieve this amazing feat thanks to a unique muscle arrangement. Their eye muscles connect to their skull, instead of their eye socket, giving them a much greater range of motion.

This eye-popping ability helps them keep their eyes safe when sand or coral gets stirred up around them by prey trying to escape or by turbulent waters.

 

This represents a new eye protection method among rays, but if it ever stops being effective, maybe they could turn to the Three Stooges for help.

 

Those guys knew a thing or two about eye pokes (and how to stop them!).

 

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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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