American Oceans

Facts About Octopus Eyes and Vision

Octopuses are fascinating creatures that have captivated the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

pacific octopus attack

One of the most intriguing aspects of these creatures is their unique eyes and vision.

Octopuses have evolved to have some of the most advanced eyes in the animal kingdom, with complex structures and abilities that allow them to see in ways that are vastly different from humans.

Despite the many fascinating aspects of octopus eyes and vision, there is still much that scientists do not know about these creatures.

Read on below to learn what it is we do know about the eyes of octopi.

Anatomy of Octopus Eyes

a dumbo octopus on the sea floor deep in the ocean

Octopuses are cephalopods, a group of invertebrates known for their impressive cognitive abilities and unique body structures.

One of the most striking features of octopuses is their eyes, which are highly advanced and specialized for their underwater environment.


The eyes of octopuses are similar in structure to those of other cephalopods, such as the nautilus, but are much more complex.

They consist of a spherical eyeball, surrounded by a tough, protective outer layer called the cornea. The cornea helps to focus light onto the lens, which is located inside the eye.

The lens of an octopus eye is similar in shape to a human lens, but is much more flexible. This allows the octopus to change the shape of its lens and adjust its focus quickly and accurately, even in murky water.

Size and Shape

The size and shape of octopus eyes can vary depending on the species. The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), for example, has large, round eyes that are about the size of a tennis ball.

Other species, such as the giant Pacific octopus, have smaller, more oval-shaped eyes.

Despite these differences, all octopus eyes share a few key features. They are positioned on the front of the octopus’s head, giving the animal excellent depth perception.

They also have a wide field of view, allowing the octopus to see in almost every direction without moving its head.

Vision of Octopuses

a two spot octopus sitting in the sand

Octopuses have a unique visual system that allows them to perceive their surroundings and detect potential predators and prey.

Their eyes are large and complex, and their visual abilities are comparable to those of many vertebrates.

Visual Acuity

Octopuses have excellent visual acuity, which allows them to see fine details and distinguish between different shapes and patterns.

Their eyes have a single lens that focuses light onto the retina, which contains millions of photoreceptor cells.

These cells are arranged in a way that maximizes spatial resolution, allowing octopuses to see with great clarity.

Color Vision

Octopuses are capable of color vision and can detect a wide range of colors, including blue, which is important for detecting prey in the ocean.

They have specialized cells called chromatophores that allow them to change the color and pattern of their skin to blend in with their surroundings or communicate with other octopuses.

Depth Perception

Octopuses have limited depth perception due to the placement of their eyes on either side of their head, which creates a blind spot in their visual field.

However, they compensate for this by using other cues, such as the size and position of objects relative to each other, to judge distances.

Octopus Eye Evolution

a small pygmy octopus in the sand

Octopuses are known for their unique and highly evolved eyes, which are quite different from those of vertebrates.

The evolution of octopus eyes has been a topic of interest for many years, and researchers have made significant progress in understanding how these eyes came to be.

This section will explore the evolutionary history of octopus eyes, including the concept of convergent evolution.

Evolutionary History

The evolution of octopus eyes can be traced back to their common ancestor with nautiluses, which lived over 500 million years ago.

While the eyes of modern nautiluses are relatively simple, octopuses have evolved complex eyes with a number of unique features.

For example, octopus eyes lack a blind spot, which is present in the eyes of vertebrates. Additionally, the optic lobe of the octopus brain is much larger than that of other invertebrates, suggesting that the octopus places a high value on visual information.

Convergent Evolution

One of the most fascinating aspects of octopus eye evolution is the concept of convergent evolution.

This refers to the process by which two unrelated organisms evolve similar traits in response to similar environmental pressures. In the case of octopuses and vertebrates, both groups have evolved complex camera-like eyes, despite the fact that they are not closely related.

The eyes of octopuses are well adapted to their habitat and lifestyle, with large eyes that allow them to see in low light conditions and detect predators from a distance.

They are also capable of changing color and texture to blend in with their surroundings. These adaptations have likely played a significant role in the success of octopuses as a group.

Octopus Eyes in the Wild

a glass octopus swimming deep in the ocean

Octopuses have remarkable eyesight, which is essential for their survival in the wild.

They have complex eyes with a structure similar to that of vertebrate eyes, but with several unique features that allow them to see in a wide range of conditions.


Octopuses are found in all the world’s oceans, from shallow waters to the deep sea. They are adapted to a wide range of habitats, including rocky reefs, coral reefs, and pelagic environments.

Octopuses that live in shallow waters tend to have larger eyes with more photoreceptors, while those that live in the deep sea have smaller eyes with fewer photoreceptors.


Octopuses are masters of camouflage, and their eyes play a critical role in this ability. They have the ability to change the color and pattern of their skin using specialized cells called chromatophores.

By adjusting the color and pattern of their skin, they can blend into their surroundings and avoid detection by predators.

Predator Avoidance

Octopuses are preyed upon by a wide range of predators, including giant squid, fish, and other invertebrates.

To avoid detection, they use their eyes to monitor their surroundings and detect potential threats. They can also use their eyes to judge the distance and speed of potential prey, allowing them to make precise attacks.

In addition to their remarkable eyesight, octopuses also have a highly developed nervous system, with neurons distributed throughout their body. This allows them to sense their environment and respond quickly to changes in their surroundings.

Fun Facts about Octopus Eyes

a dumbo octopus swimming along deep underwater

Octopuses are fascinating creatures with unique characteristics, and their eyes are no exception. Here are some fun facts about octopus eyes:

  • Octopuses have round pupils, just like humans, but they can also have U-shaped, W-shaped, or dumbbell-shaped pupils depending on the species. These shapes allow them to control the amount of light entering the eye and focus on different depths.
  • Octopus eyes have a single lens, which is attached to the iris and can change shape to adjust focus. They also have a cornea, retina, and optic nerve, just like human eyes.
  • Octopus eyes are highly developed and can detect polarized light, which helps them navigate and orient themselves in the water. They can also see colors, including ultraviolet light, and some species can even see in the dark.
  • Octopuses have prisms in their eyes that help them focus light and create sharp images. These prisms are made of a transparent material called crystallin, which is also found in human eyes.
  • Octopuses are known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities, and their eyes play a crucial role in these skills. They use their eyes to observe and interact with their environment, communicate with other octopuses, and even recognize human faces.
  • Octopuses are also popular on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where their unique appearance and behavior make them a favorite among users.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many eyes does an octopus have?

Octopuses have two large eyes that are similar to human eyes in structure. These eyes are located on either side of their head and provide them with stereoscopic vision, which helps them judge distances and perceive depth.

What type of eyes do octopuses have?

Octopuses have camera-like eyes that are similar to those of vertebrates. Their eyes have a single lens that focuses light onto the retina, which contains photoreceptor cells that convert light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain.

What makes octopus eyes unique?

Octopus eyes are unique in several ways. They have a larger pupil than most other animals, which allows more light to enter the eye. They also have a flexible cornea that can change shape to adjust the focus of incoming light. Additionally, octopuses are able to see polarized light, which helps them navigate in the open ocean.

Can octopuses see in the dark?

Octopuses have excellent low-light vision and are able to see in the dark. They have a high number of rod cells in their retina, which are specialized for detecting low levels of light.

What is the color of octopus eyes?

Octopus eyes are typically yellow or green in color, although some species have blue or brown eyes. The color of an octopus’s eye is determined by the pigments in the iris.

Do octopuses suffer from eye diseases?

Octopuses can suffer from eye diseases, just like humans and other animals. One common eye disease in octopuses is cataracts, which can cause cloudiness in the lens of the eye and lead to vision loss. Octopuses can also suffer from infections and injuries to the eye, which can cause inflammation and other problems.

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