Palaeontologists have discovered the oldest example of a fossilized eye the world has ever seen, preserved for over half a billion years. The fossil of an extinct sea creature includes what could be the oldest eye ever found, the latest study has observed. The remains of fossil include an early form of the eye seen in many of today’s creatures, including crabs, bees, and dragonflies, scientists stated. Scientists from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, concluded while examining the well-conserved fossil of a hard-shelled species named a trilobite.
These are relatives of spiders and crabs existed in coastal waters while the Palaeozoic era, in 541-251 million ages ago, experts said. They found this old creature had an ancient form of a compound eye, a visual organ that comprises of arrays of tiny visible cells, called ommatidia, comparable to the present-day bees. This conclusion, published in the journal PNAS, recommend that compound eyes have evolved little over 500 million years. The right eye of the remains which was found in Estonia was partly worn away, giving researchers a bright appearance of the organ.
The unveiled details of the eye’s composition and function, and how it varies from modern composite eyes. The species had lousy vision compared with many animals now, but it could recognize predators and barriers in its path, the research showed. Its eye contains approximately 100 ommatidia, which are resided nearly far apart compared to modern compounds eyes. Unlike contemporary composite eyes, the fossil’s eye does not have a lens. This is likely because of the first species called Schmidtiellus reetae, required parts of the shell needed for lens development. The crew also reported that only a few million years later, recovered compound eyes with higher resolution originated in another trilobite species from the present-day Baltic region.
Professor Euan Clarkson, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “This exceptional fossil shows us how primitive animals saw the world nearby them hundreds of millions of years ago. Exceptionally, it also reveals that the structure and function of compound eyes have hardly changed in half a billion years.”
“This may be the newest example of an eye that it is probable to find,” said Brigitte Schoenemann, Professor in the University of Cologne in Germany. “Older specimens in sediment layers below this specimen contain only evidence of the real animals, which were extremely soft to be fossilized and have decayed over time,” added Schoenemann.