Research article: Predictive saccade in the absence of smooth pursuit: Interception of moving targets in the archer fish

Avi Ben-Simon, Ohad Ben-Shahar, Genadiy Vasserman, Ronen Segev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Interception of fast-moving targets is a demanding task many animals solve. To handle it successfully, mammals employ both saccadic and smooth pursuit eye movements in order to confine the target to their area centralis. But how can non-mammalian vertebrates, which lack smooth pursuit, intercept moving targets? We studied this question by exploring eye movement strategies employed by archer fish, an animal that possesses an area centralis, lacks smooth pursuit eye movements, but can intercept moving targets by shooting jets of water at them. We tracked the gaze direction of fish during interception of moving targets and found that they employ saccadic eye movements based on prediction of target position when it is hit. The fish fixates on the target's initial position for ~0.2?s from the onset of its motion, a time period used to predict whether a shot can be made before the projection of the target exits the area centralis. If the prediction indicates otherwise, the fish performs a saccade that overshoots the center of gaze beyond the present target projection on the retina, such that after the saccade the moving target remains inside the area centralis long enough to prepare and perform a shot. These results add to the growing body of knowledge on biological target tracking and may shed light on the mechanism underlying this behavior in other animals with no neural system for the generation of smooth pursuit eye movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4248-4254
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number24
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • Area centralis
  • Eye movements
  • Eye tracking
  • Moving targets
  • Predictive saccades

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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