The Evolution of Gaze Shifting Eye Movements

  • Michael F. LandEmail author
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 41)


In animals with good eyesight most eye movements consist of saccades, which rapidly shift the direction of the eye’s axis, and intervals between the saccades (fixations) in which gaze is kept stationary relative to the surroundings. This stability is needed to prevent motion blur, and it is achieved by reflexes which counter-rotate the eye when the head moves. This saccade-and-fixate strategy arose early in fish evolution, when the original function of saccades was to re-centre the eye as the fish turned. In primates, and other foveate vertebrates, saccades took on the new function of directing the fovea to objects of interest in the surroundings. Among invertebrates the same saccade-and-fixate pattern is seen, especially in insects, crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs.


Fixation Invertebrates Saccade Stabilising reflexes Vertebrates 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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