Letter | Published:

Are Eyes ever Autophanous?

Naturevolume 88page447 (1912) | Download Citation



COLONEL HERSCHEL'S letter in NATURE of January 18, followed by that of Mr. Hunt, have no doubt interested others besides myself. I do not think that there is any reason to suppose that any animal's eyes are autophanous, however general the belief to the contrary may be among those not given to accurate observation. I can add to the list of the apparently autophanous the spring-haas in South Africa and the common English mouse. I generally encourage a few of the latter, and at the present time three have taken up their abode with me in Victoria Street. There is a regulator clock standing 1 5 8 inches away from the wall, and about 6 feet high. I put a little food on the top of the clock, and sometimes behind the clock not quite so high, and in other awkward places. The mice jump on to the skirting board, and there spread themselves out sideways so as to stretch the 1 5 8 inches, and then proceed to go up at an angle of about 40°, climbing, so to speak, a staircase that is not there, and then when this brings them to the side of the clock they turn over in a nimble way with a jump, not always successfully, and negotiate the next flight, and so zigzag to the goal. I often watch these quite close, holding a metallic filament electric light with shade, so that they are fully illuminated and I am in shade. So long as I am quiet or move slowly, doing nothing spasmodically, they take no notice. I have even prodded and moved the food they were eating with the slide of a long rule, which seemed to perplex rather than frighten them. They do not seem to hear loud noises or singing provided they do not contain S, K, or other sudden sounds, even though I am not a yard away. A few days ago while writing I heard one at work on some bread about 4 feet from the ground, when, to see him better without getting up, I focussed the filaments of the electric lamp upon him with a large reading-glass. The mouse did not seem in the least frightened, but stared at the lens a short time, and then I saw his eyes shining with a pale ruby, or rather spinel, colour, and was reminded of Colonel Herschel's letter.

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