Healy, McNally, Ruxton, Cooper, & Jackson (2013). Metabolic rate and body size are linked with perception of temporal information.

Healy, K., McNally, L., Ruxton, G. D., Cooper, N., & Jackson, A. L. (2013). Metabolic rate and body size are linked with perception of temporal information. Animal Behaviour, 86(4), 685–696.

[Purpose of enhanced temporal resolution; how experienced in humans …]

“The ability to integrate information over fine timescales, that is, at high temporal resolution, is thus fundamental to many aspects of an organism’s ecology and behaviour. Furthermore, temporal resolution is also directly linked to the perception of the passage of time itself for humans, in particular when tracking fast moving stimuli (Hagura et al. 2012).” (p 685)

[From Figure 1, compares temporal resolution between species …]

“The ability of an organism to track a moving object depends on the time integral over which the individual can obtain its information. This is determined by its ability to resolve temporal information. In cases where an animal, such as a ground squirrel, displays complex movement (a), conspecifics may perceive the individual as moving according to a first-order integral of its actual movement owing to its high temporal resolution abilities (b). However a species with lower temporal resolution abilities, such as a short-eared owl, may perceive the motion as an even higher order derivative of the actual motion, meaning information of prey motion at finer temporal scales is not available to it (c).” (p 686)

[Temporal sensitivity elevated in smaller organisms and in ones with faster metabolisms …]

“… we hypothesized that smaller organisms and those with higher metabolic rates perceive temporal change on finer timescales.” (p 686)

[(CFF is related to persistence of vision) …]

“This ‘integration time’ of visual systems can be quantified using the critical flicker fusion frequency (CFF): the lowest frequency of flashing at which a flickering light source is perceived as constant (D’Eath 1998; Schwartz 2009).” (p 686)

[Visual and behavioural lag …]

“As there may be further processing of temporal information after it reaches the retina that may cause behavioural studies to measure lower CFF values (D’Eath 1998), we included the [page break] experimental procedure used to measure CFF as a candidate covariate in our models.” (p 686-687)

[Findings …]

“… according to our model, small animals with high mass-specific metabolic rates in high light environments possessed the highest maximum CFF and hence greatest ability to perceive temporally dynamic visual information. Conversely, large animals with low mass-specific metabolic rates in low light environments had the lowest CFF.” (p 688)

[Brain mass made no difference …]

“We also found that including brain mass in a restricted data set of 28 species for which brain mass was available did not change the effect of the explanatory variables light levels, qWg and body mass on maximum CFF …” (p 689)

[Temporal resolution is connected to body mass and metabolism …]

“Our results show that, while there is considerable variability in the ability to resolve temporally dynamic visual information across vertebrates, body mass and metabolic rate act as important general constraints on this ability.” (p 689)

[Manouverability (agility) may come as a response to temporal sensitivity …]

“In a broader context, it might be expected that manoeuvrability, a vital component of an individual’s ability to respond to the environment, may be one of the main factors determining whether it is necessary to invest in costly temporal information processing. Manoeuvrability, as defined by the ability to change body position or orientation, generally scales negatively with body mass.” (p 689)

[Clever epigraph …]

“… ‘time is in the eye of the beholder’.” (p 689)

Selected References

  • D’Eath, R. B. 1998. Can video images imitate real stimuli in animal behavior experiments? Biological Reviews, 73, 267e292.
  • Hagura, N., Kanai, R., Orgs, G. & Haggard, P. 2012. Ready steady slow: action preparation slows the subjective passage of time. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 4399e4406.
  • Schwartz, S. H. 2009. Visual Perception: a Clinical Orientation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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