A look into the evolution of the eye
A team of researchers, among them a zoologist from the University of Cologne, has succeeded in reconstructing a 160 million year old compound eye of a fossil crustacean found in southeastern France visible. With the reconstruction of the eye, the scientists succeeded in making the structure of soft tissue visible -- which was long considered to be impossible.
|Fossile crustacean predator [Credit: University of Cologne]|
With the reconstruction of the eye's structure, the scientists succeeded in making the structure of soft tissue visible -- which was long considered to be impossible. Together with the palaeontologist Jean Vannier (CNRS/Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon) and other colleagues, the zoologist Brigitte Schoenemann from the University of Cologne played a leading role in this research.
|Eye structure of Dollocaris ingens [Credit: Jean Vannier et al., NatComm]|
This research work is important because up to now researchers thought that only the hard parts of an animal, such as shells or bones, could be preserved. Hence the findings of the research team on soft tissue are ground-breaking -- and they describe fossil sensory cells older than those preserved in the relatively young amber. Recently, computer-tomography has revealed that even individual sensory cells can be documented.
The recent research work shows for the first time that the complete structure of a compound eye can be analysed and resolved. Thus, the team was able to open up completely new perspectives -- not just for the investigation of fossilised sensory systems. It also showed that in contrast to earlier opinions, the fossil record can contribute important facts to the discussion of the evolution of visual and other internal systems.
The research has been published in Nature Communications.
Source: University of Cologne [January 26, 2016]