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Flies see the world in slow motion

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Ever wondered, why it is so hard to swat a housefly? It sees us coming in slow motion!

For smaller animals such as insects, time appears to move more slowly, a new study has found.

They can observe movement on a finer timescale than bigger creatures, allowing them to escape from larger predators, researchers said.

For instance, insects and small birds can see more information in one second than a larger animal such as an elephant, 'BBC News' reported.

"The ability to perceive time on very small scales may be the difference between life and death for fast-moving organisms such as predators and their prey," said lead author Kevin Healy, at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland.

Researchers observed that bigger animals may miss things that smaller creatures can rapidly spot.

In humans, too, there is variation among individuals. Athletes can often process visual information more quickly.

The speed at which humans absorb visual information is also age-related, said Andrew Jackson, co-author of the study.

"Younger people can react more quickly than older people, and this ability falls off further with increasing age," said Jackson.

Researchers looked at the variation of time perception across a variety of animals, the report said.

They gathered datasets from other teams who had used a technique called critical flicker fusion frequency, which measures the speed at which the eye can process light.

Plotting these results on a graph revealed a pattern that showed a strong relationship between body size and how quick the eye could respond to changing visual information such as a flashing light.

The study was published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

First Published: Mon, September 16 2013. 16:55 IST