The phrase “blind as a bat” is a serious misnomer, as most species of bats are believed to have eyesight as good as or even better than humans. It’s an old wives tale that’s been passed down due to the nocturnal nature of the species, but there are a surprising number of animals that get by without the need for sight. Despite missing what many creatures consider to be the most vital organic sense, many of these creatures manage to thrive despite having no eyes or otherwise being blind.
So how do these animals manage to evolve with one of the five core senses entirely missing? Sometimes these creatures live in environments that are so dark that sight is irrelevant. Other blind animals rely on their other sense or even develop new sensory organs to compensate for the lack of sight. But for some of these creatures, bad eyesight is a liability that they manage to overcome through their other unique abilities.
#10Animal that’s Blind: Star-Nosed Mole
The star-nosed mole is hunted by everything from domestic cats to hawks to foxes — a fact that would seemingly make this blind animal’s continued survival impossible. But the fleshy tentacles that protrude from the mole’s face cover admirably as a replacement for eyes by allowing this weird creature to identify vibrations in the Earth as well as sense electrical fields. By prodding with these tentacles roughly a dozen times a second, the star-nosed mole maps out a complex vision of the world around it that includes the presence of both predators and prey. Functionally, it trades sight for a supercharged sense of touch.
The star-nosed mole is also one of the fastest diggers and eaters in the world, but you can discover plenty of other facts about them here.
#9Animal that’s Blind: Hydra
The freshwater polyp literally has no eyes, but it still manages to hunt prey and evade predators by responding to the light around it. In fact, these creatures only hunt during the day, as the conditions for traditional sight are necessary for their behaviors. Rather than employ complex sensory receptors like eyes, the simple photo-receptive cells within the creature autonomously trigger the firing of a barb when in the presence of light. Researchers see in the hydra a primitive precursor to the human eye, but these creatures are more miraculously believed to be functionally immortal since they seem to be completely unaffected by the process of aging.
#8Animal that’s Blind: Naked Mole-Rat
The naked mole-rat isn’t technically blind, but its eyes are so small that they’re of practically no value to these bizarre-looking rodents. They instead rely more on their other four senses to operate both above and beneath the ground, and these creatures actually see exactly as well both in the light and the dark. Like the hydra, the naked mole-rat has a quality that humanity can be envious of ― a complete absence of the receptors that cause it to feel pain.
#7Animal that’s Blind: Eyeless Shrimp
The eyeless shrimp were discovered in 2012, thanks to the fact that they’ve adapted to living exclusively in the peculiar environment of volcanic sea vents — and the blistering temperatures of this ecosystem invite only the boldest of predators. Oddly enough, these shrimp are actually born with eyes, but they lose the eyes and develop a light sensor on their body as they reach adulthood. These primitive sensory organs are essentially just capable of recognizing light, but they’re an effective enough guiding presence for the shrimp which navigate the environment using infrared. Scientists believe that this swapping of one sensory mechanism for another goes hand in hand with the shrimp changing diets and habitats as they age.
#6Animal that’s Blind: Deep Sea Lobster
The first sign that the deep-sea lobster — formally known as Dinochelus ausubeli — is blind might be the fact that it’s albino. A lack of pigmentation is common in deep-sea creatures that need neither protection from the sun’s rays nor camouflage from predators with functional eyes. Bad eyesight is the name of the game at these depths, and the deep-sea lobster makes use of unusually mismatched claws to hunt for its prey and evade predators.
#5Animal that’s Blind: Sinopoda scurion
If you want to have trouble sleeping at night, imagine an arachnid that needs no eyes to be the perfect predator. That’s the case with a cave-dwelling species of huntsman spider that trades in the usual eight eyes for none at all. But that’s par for the course, as the Laotian cave where the Sinopoda scurion was discovered is also home to blind scorpions, fish, and crabs. Ironically, the spider was named after the Swiss headlamp company Scurion — known for making even the deepest caves visible.
#4Animal that’s Blind: Texas Blind Salamander
The deep waters in which the Texas blind salamander navigates require no vision, but you can still catch a glimpse of two black spots on the salamander’s face where Its eyes should be. Otherwise, these albino amphibians sense changes in water pressure as a way of detecting prey and sensing when predators are near. And since they live in an isolated habitat, these blind creatures manage to occupy the top of a food chain that also consists of invertebrates like snails and shrimp. Unfortunately, this species is highly endangered thanks to a limited habitat and human disruption.
#3Animal that’s Blind: Mexican Tetra
As a member of a species born exclusively in waters of pure darkness, every Mexican tetra is born forced to survive on touch alone. In fact, these fish are born with eyes that then degenerate into sockets for storing fat deposits over time. But in addition to losing both its eyesight and its pigmentation, this cavefish’s skeleton mutates over time to force them to swim in a counterclockwise manner and employ swimming patterns that match the geography of a cave channel. But these fish manage to survive with such a bold lack of defense mechanics and only the most rudimentary navigational tools simply because they’re the apex predators of their environments.
#2Animal that’s Blind: Olm
The Texas cave salamander can only be found in a small stretch of waters in Texas, but it has a curiously similar cousin that exists only in European waters. The olm is a similarly albino salamander that lives only in the water, but these two species seem to have developed in complete independence from one another. But the olm has captured the imagination of researchers because it’s capable of living for as long as a century. Just as fascinating is the olm’s navigation method — employing mechano-, chemo-, and electro-receptors to make sense of their sightless worlds.
#1 Animal that’s Blind: Golden Mole
The horrific tentacles that consume the face of the star-nosed mole allow it to create a map of its environment, but how does the comparatively normal but blind golden mole make sense of its world? Research suggests that it comes down to a combination of the unique environment in which they live — the Sahara Desert — and the sophisticated design of their cranial bones. Research is still early, but it appears that their inner ear can sense the frequency of vibrations in the desert sand and use it to steer them towards prey and away from predators.
List of Blind Animals
- Star-Nosed Mole
- Naked Mole-rat
- Eyeless Shrimp
- Deep Sea Lobster
- Sinopoda scurion
- Texas Blind Salamander
- Mexican Tetra
- Golden Mole