Do Sharks Blink? The Answer May Surprise You!

  • By: Alex
  • Date: July 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

It’s a question many wonders about when they see sharks in their natural habitat. This article will answer that much-debated question and others like it.

It’s a question many wonders about when they see sharks in their natural habitat. This article will answer that much-debated question and others like it.

No, Sharks do not blink. Sharks cannot close their eyelids, so they must use a transparent nictitating membrane to protect and clean their eyes. Some sharks also have a protective third eyelid that pops out when the Shark is stressed or attacking prey.

Sharks don’t blink for the same reason they must constantly swim: to create oxygen-rich water for their gills.

When we blink, we automatically keep our eyes wet by spreading a thin film of tears.

Sharks’ eyes, however, contain a saline solution much like what is found in human blood plasma. This means they don’t need to create extra water around their eyes for blinking because the solution already there will keep it moist.

Research suggests that sharks have good eyesight and can see better than humans underwater, though they don’t see colors as we do.

Sharks can also sense light and dark, and they use particular sensory organs (called the ocelli) to detect up or down movements in the water around them.

Most sharks’ eyes contain a mirror-like layer that reflects incoming light as a telescope does. Their cornea is perfectly smooth to allow the light to pass through them without distortion.

Can sharks close their eyes?

Can sharks close their eyes?

Yes, but only to a point. Scientists have observed several types of sharks closing their eyes when attacking prey, probably to protect it from damage during the frenzy.

In addition, scientists also have determined that sharks can control how tightly they shut their eyelids.

Can sharks wink?

Some sharks can wink, but not all.

For example, a shark’s pectoral fin acts like an eyelid, and it can shut its eyes completely, while other sharks have a transparent nictitating membrane that flicks across their eye for a moment when they blink.

In fact, some scientists believe that because the nictitating membrane is transparent, it would be impossible for a shark to wink.

However, sharks can close their eyes and open them again as we do, but the process is much faster than ours because of their smooth corneas.

The skin around a shark’s eyes is fragile and delicate; this allows them to close their eyelids without damaging them.

What are shark eyes like?

Sharks have two eyes with spherical lenses, similar to humans.

But scientists have discovered that some sharks have a mirror-like layer behind their retinas that reflects incoming light as a telescope does.

This characteristic is called the tapetum lucidum

It allows them to see better in dark water by doubling the available light received on the retina.

The shark retina functions like the human retina; they contain rods and cones that sense light, ultimately sending signals to the brain.

What about shark eyesight?

What about shark eyesight?

Though their eyes are pretty similar, sharks see better underwater than humans.

Sharks can see better in dark water by using a mirror-like layer behind their retinas that reflects incoming light as a telescope does.

Their cornea is perfectly smooth to allow the light to pass through them, and their pupil can expand and contract to accommodate different lighting conditions.

Sharks have more giant eyes than humans overall, so they have a higher field of vision even though the curvature of their lenses distorts some parts.

Can sharks see in color?

The same question has been asked over and over again. And the answer is, yes, but the color vision in sharks is not like ours. Sharks can see colors, but only at low light levels (dawn/dusk).

As light levels increase, they cannot discriminate color; their eyes contain a special pigment (rod) responsible for color vision at low light levels that disappear at higher intensities.

What is the purpose of this pigment?

The answer to this question has been a mystery for years. Scientists initially thought it acted as a switch between day and night vision, but further studies have found this pigment also serves essential functions in low-light conditions:

  • Facilitates the detection of bioluminescent prey, and
  • Allows some deep-sea sharks to maximize their use of ambient light.

In other words, the rod pigment absorbs as much light as possible so that these sharks can “see” in high light conditions where over half the available light is absorbed before reaching the deeper tissues of the eye.

Blinking for humans is a method to prevent drying out our eyeballs and a meaningful way to send signals.

In fact, blinking is so vital that we cannot voluntarily suppress the reflex even when someone pokes hard at our open eyes with their fingers.

Although fish do not have eyelids and corresponding eye muscles that allow fine-tuned control, they can indeed blink.

Blinking in fish is quite different from flashing in humans for two reasons.

  • First, the protective function of blinking does not exist for fish because their bodies are surrounded by water and can be kept perfectly moist simply by swimming.
  • Second, fish have no eyelids to close their eyes, whereas most animals use eyelids to close their eyes.

The protective function is fulfilled by the nictitating membrane, a thin, challenging, and transparent third eyelid that lies just under the surface of the other two.

It closes from top to bottom over the eye like a Venetian blind. Many fish species can draw this membrane across their eyes when hunting or interacting aggressively with other fish.

Fish do not blink because they lack eyelids. Instead, to protect their eyes while hunting or interacting with other fish, many species may roll their eyes clockwise or counterclockwise (up to 180 degrees) by activating muscles that wrap around the eye like a spoked wheel.

Do sharks close their eyes when they sleep?

Do sharks close their eyes when they sleep?

Yes, but some scientists believe that they don’t actually sleep. 

While sharks may appear to be lounging on the ocean floor, scientists believe their brain activity is still higher than when they are awake. Some sharks never seem to stop moving, not even when they’re sleeping, like the Great White Shark.

This is because sharks have to keep moving to push oxygenated water over their gills.

Sharks don’t technically ‘sleep’ the way humans do, but they appear to be resting because their brain activity slows down. Sharks that never stop swimming might not actually sleep because they can suffocate if they remain still.

Scientists believe that most sharks sleep for short periods because they don’t have enough oxygen to lie still for too long.

Yes, sharks do close their eyes when they go to sleep, but they don’t stay there for long and may not be sleeping at all.


FAQ:


Can a shark regenerate an eye that has been lost?

Sharks can regrow teeth but not eyes because eyes are made of several parts, including the cornea. After losing sight, they can’t regenerate it.

Can sharks see with their eyes closed?

Yes, but they can only see black and white when they do this. Sharks’ pupils are circular, which means they can only tell the difference between bright and dark spaces.

When a shark is sleeping with its eyes closed, it might see black and white images because its lens doesn’t change shape for focusing as ours do.

What fish can blink with both eyes?

The Shark is th only fish that can blink with both eyes.