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12 Animals That Can See Infrared (with Pictures)

Animals that can see infrared have an advantage that most other creatures, including humans, do not possess. Infrared vision allows them to detect the heat naturally given off by warm-blooded animals. With this ability, animals that can see infrared can hunt their prey even in low-light environments. Below you will find several different species of animals that can detect infrared light.

12 Animals That Can See Infrared

1. Vampire Bat

common vampire bat | depositphotos.com

Scientific Name: Desmodontinae

As their name suggests, vampire bats are blood suckers that feast on the blood of mammals. Vampire bats also have pit organs in their nose that allow them to detect infrared. They use this ability to find and catch their prey.

According to David Julius, a researcher at the University of California, vampire bats can adjust their infrared sensors to “see” changes in body temperature due to blood flow. Vampire bats are native to Central and South America, as well as Mexico. While their bite itself doesn’t harm humans, it can transmit deadly diseases, including rabies.

2. Goldfish

Scientific Name: Carassius auratus

The goldfish is an amazing fish that can see infrared and ultraviolet light. This is due to the 4 different types of cone cells that they have in their eyes. These cells are sensitive to ultraviolet, red, blue, and green light.

This means that despite its timid appearance, goldfish can easily detect movement in the water and then zero in onto their prey, which includes small crustaceans, plankton, and insects. An interesting fact about goldfish is that they can grow up to 5 pounds in the wild, according to National Geographic.

3. Mosquito


Scientific Name: Culicidae

Most, if not all, people would agree that mosquitoes are annoying insects that cause much strife in our daily lives. Their bite is not only painful and leaves behind an itchy bump, but it can transmit dangerous and deadly diseases.

Mosquitoes feast on blood, and use their infrared ability to detect the body heat of their next meal. Did you know, however, that only the female of the species bites humans and animals? Female mosquitoes need the blood to develop their eggs, while male mosquitoes will only feed on plant juices.

4. Salmon

Scientific Name: Salmo salar

Salmons have enhanced retinas which allow them to see infrared light. This makes it much easier for them to move through and detect food in murky water. These interesting fish can live in freshwater and saltwater.

They also will travel long distances to spawn in the same river that they themselves were born in. The reason why they return, however, is not known and it is speculated by some that it may be because they use the Earth’s magnetic field as a guide.

5. Cottonmouths

Eastern Cottonmouth

Scientific Name: Crotalinae

Pit Vipers like cottonmouths, aka water moccasins, get the name “pit viper” from the pit organs located above their nose. They use these organs to sense their prey. What they feast on varies depending on the size of the snake, but typically includes eggs, birds, small mammals, and lizards. Cottonmouths are venomous snakes that are found throughout many of the southern and southeastern states in the U.S.

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There are about 190 different species total in the pit viper family, and they are found throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The cottonmouth has 3 subspecies; the Florida cottonmouth, eastern cottonmouth, and the western cottonmouth.

6. Rattlesnakes

Scientific Name: Crotalus Linnaeus

Like other Pit Vipers, rattlesnakes have pits on their face that feature a heat-sensitive membrane. This membrane lets them see thermal radiation, which makes them a cunning hunter that can see their prey even in the dark.

Rattlesnakes are found from Argentina to Canada. According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is the largest of the rattlesnake species at up to 96 inches long.

7. Copperheads

Scientific Name: Agkistrodon contortrix

Copperheads are another snake species that have heat sensory pits that allow them to detect heat sources. Copperheads are a little on the smaller size and reach only about 2 to 3 feet long. These venomous snakes are one of the most commonly experienced snakebites.

Thankfully, their bite is rarely fatal, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Copperheads are found in a wide array of habitats, including wetlands, rocky hillsides, and even semi-aquatic.

8. Pythons

Ball Python | Pixabay.com

Scientific Name: Pythonidae

Pythons also have pit organs that give them the ability to detect infrared from warm prey up to 1 meter away. These snakes are not venomous and instead strangle and crush their prey.

Pythons are native to Asia, Australia, and Africa, and can grow up to 30 feet long and weigh up to 250 pounds. Pythons are also one of the oldest living species of snakes, and can live up to 30 years even in the wild.

9. Bullfrogs

American bullfrog

Scientific Name: Lithobates catesbeianus

The eyes of a bullfrog can see above and below the surface of the water. Their eyes are also able to see infrared light thanks to their ability to convert a vitamin A1 enzyme into vitamin A2.

This enzyme enhances the bullfrogs’ eyesight and allows them to see both red light and infrared. Bullfrogs are amazing jumpers and can leap up to 10 times the length of their body. They prey on insects, fish, small turtles, worms, other frogs, and even small mammals. They measure about 8 inches long and weigh up to 1 pound.

10. Bedbugs

bedbug | image by liz.novack via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Cimex lectularius

Bedbugs are problematic little creatures that, according to National Geographic, can see infrared light. This makes these hard-to-get-rid-of insects even more of a nuisance, since they can see the heat your body naturally gives off.

Bedbugs are hardy insects that feed on the blood of mammals, and can handle temperatures of up to 122 degrees. Once they infest your home, they can be difficult to get rid of and can even survive several months without a blood meal.

11. Black Fire Beetle

black fire beetle

Scientific Name: Melanophila acuminata

The black fire beetle possesses sensors that allow them to see infrared light. What’s the most interesting thing about this species of beetle is that they use the ability to see infrared light to detect forest fires.

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This is because their larvae, which consumes wood, can only develop in trees that have been freshly burned. The black fire beetle can be found in North America, Europe, Southern Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean.

12. Mantis Shrimp

mantis shrimp | image by prilfish via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Stomatopoda

Mantis shrimp are colorful creatures that, despite their name, are not shrimp at all. They are stomatopods, which are related to shrimps, lobsters, and crabs. These crustaceans have three pseudo-pupils positioned on top of one another.

And each of these eyes has independent depth perception that gives them the ability to see both infrared and ultraviolet light. The mantis shrimp also have dactyl clubs that allow them to crack and pummel their prey.