HOW EVOLUTION INVENTED SIGHT—AND PERFECTED IT
“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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