Home Nature They discover the oldest eye in the world

They discover the oldest eye in the world

It is a 530 million year old fossil belonging to a trilobite, a Paleozoic creature.


Thanks to the discovery, it has been possible to know a little better the interesting evolution of the sense of vision. The eye does not present great differences with this organ at present, reason why it indicates to us that the ocular structure has not varied hardly in five hundred million years.

This member was partially worn , which allowed studying the interior, knowing its  structure and functioning, as well as the differences with  modern eyes.

The lead author of the study, Professor Brigitte Schoenemann of the University of Cologne, Germany, says that “this may be the oldest example of an eye that can be found. The oldest specimens in the sediment layers  beneath this fossil contain only traces of the original animals, which were too soft to fossilize and will have disintegrated over time.”

The vision of a whole era

side view trilobite eye
side view trilobite eye

The trilobite presents an eye with a primitive composite form;  that means that it was an organ made up of about 100 tiny visual cells called omatidia , similar to a  current bee. In addition, the Schmidtiellus reetae curiously had no lens. This may be because the trilobite was a species without an adequate shell for its formation.

“This exceptional fossil shows us how primitive animals saw the world around them hundreds of millions of years ago,” according to Professor Euan Clarkson of the Faculty of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, one of the authors of the study.

The researchers believe that  the trilobite had a poorer vision compared to the current animals , but that it would also have allowed it to distinguish predators and avoid obstacles. However, years later, the Schmidtiellus reetae of the Baltic coast would develop a better composite eye and with a much higher image resolution than the fossil results show.


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