HOW EVO­LU­TION IN­VENTED SIGHT—AND PER­FECTED IT

iD magazine - - Nature -

“In re­al­ity, no one ac­tu­ally knows the an­ces­tor of all crea­tures with eyes,” says de­vel­op­men­tal bi­ol­o­gist Wal­ter Gehring of the Uni­ver­sity of Basel in Switzer­land. “But we sus­pect that it lived about a bil­lion years ago in the sea and had a skin that re­acted sen­si­tively to light.” Some starfish, jel­ly­fish, and earth­worms still pos­sess an epi­der­mis with light-sen­si­tive cells, pre­sum­ably com­pa­ra­ble to those of our oc­u­lar an­ces­tor. Via evo­lu­tion, na­ture has adapted the eyes of var­i­ous an­i­mals to their en­vi­ron­ment—and has equipped them with fas­ci­nat­ing fea­tures. Th­ese are of­ten su­pe­rior to even the high-tech cam­eras that have been de­vel­oped thus far by hu­mans— no won­der, given their de­vel­op­men­tal pe­riod of 1 bil­lion years.

LEOP­ARD GECKO The up to 1-foot-long rep­tile lives in the arid deserts of Asia, where its diet con­sists of in­sects.

GREEN TREE PYTHON This snake lives in the trop­i­cal rain forests of Pa­pua New Guinea. It kills prey by con­stric­tion. Ro­dents and birds are at the top of its menu. BALD EA­GLE The up to 13-pound bird of prey lives in North Amer­ica. It plunges at its quarry (

RED- EYED TREE FROG Mea­sur­ing just 5 to 7 cen­time­ters long, this am­bush preda­tor lives in the rain forests of Cen­tral Amer­ica, where it dines on in­sects. AT­LANTIC PUFFIN This stocky fast-fly­ing div­ing seabird makes its home on is­lands in the North At­lanti

DO­MES­TIC CAT There are at least 70 mil­lion do­mes­tic cats in the U.S. (not count­ing stray an­i­mals). They are among the planet’s most suc­cess­ful preda­tors.

TENCH This carp-like fresh­wa­ter fish is found across Europe and Eura­sia. Ma­ture spec­i­mens can be up to 30 inches long.

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