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Researchers find 'oldest ever eye' in fossil

From BBC - December 7, 2017

An "exceptional" 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to scientists.

The remains of the extinct sea creature include an early form of the eye seen in many of today's animals, including crabs, bees and dragonflies.

Scientists made the find while looking at the well-preserved trilobite fossil.

These ancestors of spiders and crabs lived in seas during the Palaeozoic era, between 541-251 million years ago.

They found the ancient creature had a primitive form of compound eye,an optical organ that consists of arrays of tiny visual cells, called ommatidia, similar to those of present-day bees.

The team, which included a researcher from Edinburgh University, said their findings suggested that compound eyes had changed little over 500 million years.

Prof Euan Clarkson, of Edinburgh University's school of geosciences, said: "This exceptional fossil shows us how early animals saw the world around them hundreds of millions of years ago.

"Remarkably, it also reveals that the structure and function of compound eyes has barely changed in half a billion years."

The right eye of the fossil, which was unearthed in Estonia, was partly worn away, giving researchers a clear view inside the organ.

This revealed details of the eye's structure and function, and how it differs from modern compound eyes.

No lens

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