Image: Robert McLassus, Wikimedia Commons

Research reveals that animals perceive time at speeds relative to their body size — which means that small animals actually see in slow motion.

A study published in the journal Animal Behavior has revamped the way that biologists interpret the behavior of animals in relation to the way they view the world around them. An experiment performed on a wide variety of differently sized vertebrates — from lizards and fish to birds and mammals — concluded that animals perceive time at a rate dependent on their body mass and metabolism.

Smaller animals are lighter, quicker, have faster metabolic rates, and as a result intake more information in a smaller amount of time versus a larger animal. Their brains function at a higher frequency, which in turn makes the world seem to move more slowly around them.

Image: Wikipedia
Image: Andrew C, Wikimedia Commons

Awareness of time in animals is based on the speed the nervous system absorbs sensory input from stimuli. The study showed that organisms react to changing environments at a rate equal to their visual perception by measuring different species’ response times to flickering light.

After a certain velocity, organisms view flickering light as one solid illumination. For example, smaller animals are able to view the flickering at a much higher rate than humans. This adaptation this allows them to react more quickly to changes in their environment.

The ability for smaller animals to see in slower motion is correlated to their evolutionary need to move at a faster pace. The smaller the animal, the more likely it is to become prey, and the faster it is able to move equates to longer survival.

The implications of these findings are helpful to scientists in terms of further cognitive and behavioral studies of animals.