Photos Are Literal Eye Candy

The eye of a Cuban rock iguana (Cyclura nubile nubila) offers a window into a fundamental truth of evolution: Form follows necessity. Four types of cone cells in this diurnal creature’s retina provide excellent daytime color vision. A simpler third eye on top of the lizard’s head senses light and helps regulate body temperature. © David Liittschwager /National Geographic. Science tells us that you can get kind of high by staring into another person’s pupils for a long period of time, so use photographer David Liittschwager’s new series on animal eyes responsibly.

Shot for a feature by Ed Yong about Swedish scientist Dan-Eric Nilsson’s research into the hidden ways animals gather optical information, the series highlights everything that links us to and separates us from the animal kingdom. Staring into the eye of a Cuban rock iguana or a Southern ground hornbill is a beautiful experience, but searching for the intelligence and kinship we see in homo sapiens can leave one ambivalent. As explored in the eye photographs of eye-based sci-fi film I Origins, Liittschwager presents beauty in terms of color, texture, and composition, but with the inevitable questioning of self identity that follows.

Mossy leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus sikorae).©David Liittschwager,National Geographic.

Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas).©David Liittschwager, National Geographic.

Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla).©David Liittschwager, National Geographic.

Gargoyle gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus).©David Liittschwager, National Geographic