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19Jun

An Immense World by Ed Yong review – the astonishing ways in which animals experience our planet

This magnificent book reveals the strange and mysterious ways that creatures sense their surroundings – pushing our understanding of them to the limit

Scallops have eyes. Not just two eyes, like humans have, or eight, like most spiders do, but up to 200 of them, each clasped by a thin, wavy tentacle protruding from the inner edges of the corrugated shell. Considering how rudimentary a scallop’s brain is, these eyes are surprisingly sophisticated. Play a scallop a video of juicy particles drifting by in the water, as researchers at the University of South Carolina have done, and it will likely open its shell, as if to take a bite.

It’s possible, at a stretch, to say what’s going on here. The scallop’s eyes transmit visual information to its brain, which creates a picture, however fuzzy, of some juicy plankton approaching, and it springs into action. The shell opens wide, the plankton floats in, and snap! Dinner is served.

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