Oldest eyes like modern eyes, claim scientists in reports in ScienceDaily 6 December 2017, BBC News 7 December 2017 and PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.1716824114, published online 4 December 2017.
A group of scientists from Scotland, Germany and Estonia have studied the eyes of a trilobite fossil Schmidtiellus reetae found in Estonia rocks dated as 530 million years old. According to Brigitte Schoenemann of Cologne University, “This may be the earliest example of an eye that it is possible to find”.
Like living insects and crabs, trilobites had compound eyes, i.e. collections of small visual subunits, called ommatidia. Part of the specimen’s right eye region is preserved well enough for the researchers to study the internal structure of the ommatidia. Like living compound eyes each visual subunit consists of about eight sensory cells clustered around a light-guiding receptive structure. The researchers wrote in the summary: “This compound eye proved to possess the same kind of structure as the eyes of bees and dragonflies living today, but it lacks the lenses that are typical of modern eyes of this type”.
Euan Clarkson, of Edinburgh University commented “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 research team wrote in their report: “This shows that sophisticated eyes already existed at the beginning of the fossil record of higher organisms, while the differences between the ancient system and the internal structures of a modern apposition compound eye open important insights into the evolution of vision”
Editorial Comment: The apparent lack of a lens may be the result of the state of preservation of the specimen, rather than lenses not having evolved yet. In their report they describe the surface of the eye region as “slightly abraded” with most of the eye structures destroyed, but some in the right eye preserved. They wrote: “In the best preserved of these the lenses (∼1 mm in diameter), broken across, are extremely flat and thin, showing no convexity”. In other words, the eyes did have lenses, but they didn’t appear to be as curved as lenses seen in living eyes. It may be the curve was lost when the specimen was “slightly abraded”. When you are dealing with structures only a millimetre in size it doesn’t take much abrasion to damage it. It will be interesting to see if another specimen of the same species is found that is in a better state of preservation.
The researchers are correct in claiming the sophisticated eyes existed at the beginning of the fossil record. Sophisticated eyes have existed ever since trilobites, crabs, insects and other arthropods existed, i.e. from the fifth and sixth days of creation. Therefore, complex compound eyes existed before any fossils were formed. Any fossils containing such eyes did not exist until something happened to rapidly bury and preserve these creatures, complete with their sophisticated eyes so we could study them.
The fact that these eyes have the same structure as compound eyes in creatures living today is no help to the theory of evolution, which claims that eyes evolved step by step by chance random processes. It is good evidence that compound eyes were created to be fully functional, with all the internal structures needed, in the beginning, and it is no surprise they have always been so.
Eyes have been used as evidence for evolution, and against creation, by sceptics from Darwin to Dawkins. However, the more research we do into eyes the more evidence we find of God’s brilliant creation.
Evidence News vol. 17 No. 21
13 December 2017
Creation Research Australia
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