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Image of the potoo bird with strange yellow eyes

4 Weird And Wonderful Animals With Wacky Eyes

Blind mole rats, naked mole rats and primates with eyes bigger than their brains; the world plays host to many weird and wonderful creatures with wacky eyes. 

Read on to discover about the mole that has functioning eyes but still cannot see, and the bird whose picture has been iconised in an internet meme…

1. The Potoo

The potoo bird

If you’re an internet fanatic, chances are you’ve seen the “Potoo” meme, a photo of a wide eyed bird accompanied by confessions of strange idiosyncrasies. Popular captions go along the lines of “I have to remind myself not to say “I love you” before I finish a business related call”. These strange confessions are perfectly offset by a picture of the bizarre goggly eyed potoo.

The potoo is found in the forests of Central and South America. Its cryptic plumage provides the bird with exceptional camouflage skills, helping it to blend in with the tree bark. 

Memes and camouflage aside, potoo’s have perhaps the strangest looking eyes in the animal kingdom. Not unlike a cartoon, their eyes are huge, yellow and goggly, and are accompanied by a wide mouth and a very short beak. In the Handbook of the Birds of the World, Potoos are described as little more than a flying mouth and eyes.

2. The Blind Mole Rat

The blind mole rat

Given its name, it’s unsurprising that the blind mole rat is a member of the mole family, and is in fact, blind. In an example of evolution in action, their small eyes remain fully functional, but are covered by a layer of skin, rendering the rodents virtually blind. 

The obstructive layers do have some purpose though; they are transparent enough to allow the blind mole rats to perceive light and darkness, whilst protecting them from the constant dirt exposure and abrasion from burrowing underground.

3. The Naked Mole Rat

The naked mole rat

Worse off than its blind cousin, the naked mole rat resembles a potato, with giant teeth. The rodent is found in East Africa, and is definitely not going to be winning a beauty pageant any time soon. 

Like a common mole, the naked mole rat has tiny eyes, and suffers from poor visual acuity. It gets worse though – these rodents have huge teeth that actually grow through the lips, negating the need for the mole to open its mouth to burrow. 

Although they may look small and pitifully ugly, don’t be fooled; a naked mole rat can live up to 31 years, and their huge teeth are capable of burrowing through concrete.

4. The Tarsier

The tarsier

They say the best things come in small packages, and with the tarsiers this may just be true. These small primates are indigenous to the islands of Southeast Asia, and are ocular record holders in the animal kingdom- they have the largest eyes in proportion to their body size. 

To provide some context, each eyeball is approximately 16 mm in diameter and is as large as its brain. It seems they are all size and no function though, as a tarsiers eyes are fixed and cannot turn in the skull. To combat this, they are able to turn their heads 80 degrees in either direction.