So one of the aspects of my science fiction world is genetic manipulation and modification of humans by one of the factions. I am wanting to have a subset of humans who receive a single eye transplant, or possibly both, for human eyeball sized mantis shrimp eyes to be used for combat. Also I acknowledge that currently eye transplants are not even possibly yet, but I assume that 200 years from now, the time of my story, that it will be possible to regenerate the optical nerves connecting the eyes and the brain.

Question 1: Is it possible to receive an eye transplant from another animal at all, or would the differences in cells, DNA, ect cause a horrible reaction?

Question 2: Assuming it was possible, would the eyes of the mantis shrimp, which see in 12-16 different spectrums, be able to be processed by the human brain? Would simpler eyes, like dogs which only see in blue and yellow, be able to be processed by the human brain?

  • $\begingroup$ provided the eye is the correct size and the human is on immuno suppressent drugs i dont see why it couldn't work, but where is your source for the mantis shrimp bit? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Answer is likely yes as human can interpert magnetic fields when hooked up to such censors by their nerves. But it's a poorly documented mostly illegal field of research. But seems to indicate our mind can learn to interpert alien signals. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ "Seeing in 12-16 different spectrums" doesn't mean what you think it does. There is only one 'spectrum,' that of EM radiation, which goes from gammas and UV through the color spectrum (purple to red) then to IR and down to radio waves and such. What you are probably refering to is that mantis shrimp have 12 or so color receptors compared to the human's 3. However, they still see the same colors that we do; in fact according to Nature their color vision is worse than ours. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: Nitpicking after a long day at work. Color is a sensation in the mind; it is not a physical quantity. By definition, other animals cannot have human minds and so we cannot say that they see the same colors, although they may be sensitive to the same range of wavelengths of EM radiation. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ Well regardless of the perceived advantages or disadvantages of a Mantis Shrimp's eyes, the general consensus seems to be that it would be possible. My main concern was that if the human brain attempted to interpret a radically different set of visual "data" that it would severely confuse if even damage a person's brain. $\endgroup$
    – ntchapin
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 16:21

5 Answers 5


There have been experiments with giving squirrel monkeys color vision through gene therapy, so that part may not be as far fetched as it sounds on the surface.


Xenotransplantation is also a thing, believe it or not. But it's really limited at this point.


Xenotransplantation requires compatibly between species though. See the 'Potential animal organ donors' section of the wiki page above.

I think that's going to be your biggest hurdle. Transplants between similar mammals are difficult, I suspect transplants between crustaceans and humans will be impossible. Things like blood type, size, and compatible function matter quite a bit.

Blood type matching isn't possible in this case. The eye will require Hemocyanin, while the body uses hemoglobin.


  • $\begingroup$ I didn't even think about matching the blood requirements of the eye. That kills the Mantis Shrimp eye right there. Thank you $\endgroup$
    – ntchapin
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Xeno transplants are a thing yes, but they don't work, because, tissue rejection & stuff, there is a way to get around that but it will never happen because it requires injecting small samples of animal cells into a foetus in vitro, but see my answer here for a possible workaround. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 12:00

I tend to say no. It is not possible to have beneficial effect on having a mantis shrimp eye on human.

Here is why: Compound eye

You might argue that you can connect the nerve to the brain, but our brain is not developed for compound eye. Our brain is not evolved to translate signals from hundreds of eyes.

Even if the brain can adapt and translate the signals, it will not have significant advantages to normal-eyed humans, mainly because they are just not trained to use it, and the brain cannot use the full potential of the wonderful eye of the shrimp.

It's different if you genetically engineered babies to develop with the compound eyes, as their brain will try to adapt to the eye signals. They will still have to adapt (read: evolve) through generations to develop proper brain region to take care of the signals.

However, transplanting of non-compound eye might be feasible. Even if it is in addition to the available 2 eyes, brain can try to use the new eye, just like the brain can adapt and use prosthetic limbs.


There have been attempts at growing human organs on pigs, so you could go that way. However, I think that improved vision by genetic manipulation, or even fully artificial eyes are better approaches - easier, less handwavium - than pegging an overgrown multifaceted bug's eye into someone's face.

  • $\begingroup$ Those are all things that require a lot of handwaving, they're either things we've only just begun to try to develop (organs in pigs) & are decades or more from even moderate success with or are entirely sci fi puff (the others) that we don't really know will ever work.. but here's something we can do right now, probably, if it wasn't for those pesky interfering ethics boards ;)) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Mar 23, 2021 at 14:33

If your goal is to give a human the vision of a mantis shrimp, consider bionic eyes instead. These have been a thing since the 90's and there are multiple ongoing projects as of now.

While this technology is still in its early days, 200 years from now you might be able to order custom made eyes with as many channels and filters as you like. You may even be able to customize the hardware and software yourself. This could make for far more formidable vision than that of any animal.


Question 1: No it's not possible to transplant an eye from an animal to a human, tissue rejection would be horribly swift & severe.

Howsoever, with a little round or two of musical organs it's plausible, throw in some handwavium & it's definitely possible.

Here's how, based in the main on ideas from this question of mine.

Step one: grow a pig with a few of your cells & those of the donor animal of the organ you want (in your case an eye) introduced into the foetus in vitro shortly before it's immune system is calibrated.

The pig will develop with an immune system that recognizes both your cells, the eye donors & its cells as its own.

Step two: allow pig to grow to maturity.

Step three: remove all of your own organs & tissues associated with your immune system.

This won't be pleasant.

Step four: replace with the pigs, this will kill the pig of course.

You now have an immune system that recognises your own cells, those of the pig, & the eye donors as its own, no tissue rejection.

Step five: transplant eye & job done, relax & have some bacon sandwiches from leftover pig.

The big issue remaining is the severed nerve tissue you've spliced together, nerve tissue tends not to grow back.

Accept that it does sometimes, there are people who have had arm transplants & the like who have gone on to regain use & functionality of their new arm & digits over time.

So just throw in a little handwavium (you may need less than you might think here) & stem cells slathered liberally on the spliced nerves to promote growth, results won't be immediate of course.

Now for the big "But, this won't work", the tricks above should work well enough for xeno transplants from other mammals & perhaps even reptiles but something like a mantis shrimp that doesn't even use blood like ours is just much too different in its biology, individual cells wouldn't thrive transplanted as detailed (the cell chemistry is all wrong) so organs won't either.

Think of it like putting a salt water fish in a fresh water pond, the environment (your body) is just wrong for it (a crustaceans organ) & it will die with or without an immune response.

But stick to animals with the same blood & cell chemistry as our own & you'll be golden, plenty of mammals & such out there with eyes that do more or something different to ours.

Question 2: I have no idea, someone else will have to answer that, but I strongly suspect full functionality is unlikely for transplants to adult humans of eyes with differing properties to human eyes, though transplants to infants, the younger the better, will likely produce better results, not immediately but over time, as the developing brain is amazingly plastic.


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