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.

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