Cats hunt in the dark, and can see in dim light six times better than we can. Their eyes are in the
front of their head and face forward like ours do, and like us panthers have circular pupils, not elliptical as do some of
the smaller cats. Of all the carnivores, felines have the largest eyes per body size and the greatest degree of binocular
So how do panthers see in the night
when little light prevails?
Night vision is subject to allowing more light to enter the eye, the reduced
rays of light need to be detected by the optic nerve which relays information to the brain.
retina is a sensitive layer of cells lining the back of the eyeball that consists of cone & rod shaped cells. Cone cells
function only in bright light. Rod cells are highly sensitive to any levels of light; therefore, the number of rods is dominant
in the retina of nocturnal animals.
The choroid vascular coat that
surrounds the eyeball is reflective, the mirror like layer at the back of the retina called the tapetum lucidum - reflects
light rays that have already entered the eye back to the retina, and if it is not detected the first time it may be recognized
on the second pass. It is this reflected light that is responsible for the “eye-shine” of nocturnal animals when
a light is shone in their eyes.
Aside from having night vision, panthers may also be active during the
day so there eyes must be able to function in bright light as well. It is the modified pupil, the dark circle in the center
of the eye that gives them this scope. The pupil controls how much light enters the eye by dilating or constricting, its movement
is due to the ciliary muscles which are responsible for opening & closing the pupil. A cat’s pupil can dilate 3
times wider than ours.
Panthers have to be fairly adept at judging distance, this would be essential for an accurate charge or a
pounce on prey, for a leap over a stream, a jump onto a branch, or a head dive down a steep ravine. Two styles of vision allow
them to better judge distance. The first is stereoscopic: a 120 degree view of objects straight ahead giving good depth perception,
the eyes lock on to a target in front of them. The second is binocular vision: a field of view of almost 280 degrees grants
them greater peripheral vision, the binocular view takes the image from each eye and allows for some overlap, the brain is
then able to gage an objects distance in relation to the panthers own position.
Locking eyes with the callable
of a cat such as the panther can be an intense experience, it is considered not only submissive but could be dangerous to
look away, though you may want to as their stare is unrelenting, their emotion if any undetectable and under complete control.
Who knows what they maybe thinking when they gaze into our eyes, are we friend or foe, a curiosity or an opportunity...?