Scallops have telescope mirror eyes, according to reports in Science (AAAS) News and Live Science 30 November 2017, and Science doi: 10.1126/science.aam9506, 1 December 2017.

Scallops are bivalve shellfish that have many tiny round eyes. The eyes have an unusual structure – they have two retinae (light sensitive layers) and a mirror that focuses the incoming light onto the retinae. A group of scientists from Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and Lund University, Sweden have studied the mirror to see how it is made, and how it works with the double retina.

They found the mirror consisted of a multi-layered array of millions of microscopic smooth, flat, square guanine crystals. Square structures are rare in biology, and guanine does not naturally form square crystals that pack together evenly. According to the researchers, “the scallop controls the crystal morphology and spacing to produce a tiled multilayer mirror with minimal optical diffraction aberrations”.

The mirror crystals are arrayed precisely, edge to edge, forming a structure that minimises distortion of images, in the same way tiled mirrors work in modern high-tech telescopes. The scientists suggest the resemblance to a telescope mirror “provides inspiration for the development of compact, wide-field imaging devices derived from this unusual form of biological optics”.

The mirror has a complex 3D shape that directs dim light from the periphery of the visual field to the retina that is closest to the mirror, called the proximal retina, and brighter light from the centre onto the furthest retina, named the distal retina. According to the scientists “Previous studies showed that the distal retina responds to relatively dark, moving features, triggering defence or escape reflexes”. Their new study indicates the well-focussed peripheral images formed on the proximal retina “could provide useful information to control and guide its movement while swimming with jet propulsion or to assess static features of its habitat”.

The scientists are intrigued as to why the scallop should have such a large number of complex eyes. They wrote: “What benefit does the scallop receive by having up to 200 eyes located on the periphery of its semi-circular mantle, spanning ~250°?” Each eye collects a slightly different image of the environment, but there is much overlap with adjacent eyes, so the scientists suggest the scallop’s brain combines all the images into one well focussed cohesive image, but more research into how the scallop’s brain works is needed for this.

Other scientists are also intrigued as to what such a complex visual system is for. Daniel Speiser, a marine ecologist who wasn’t part of the study, commented to Live Science that “sinking lots of energy into vision makes sense if you’re a predator who hunts by sight”, but scallops are filter feeders who don’t need to stalk their prey, so having so many complex eyes “remains a mystery”.

Live Science, Science

Editorial Comment:  In response to the researchers’ question of ‘what benefit does the scallop get from so many complex eyes’, we would ask: why shouldn’t this creature have good vision? It is only a mystery if you believe good vision is somehow generated by evolutionary struggle for life. Notice the evolutionary assumptions in the comments made by the scientists. They assume the scallop is a primitive filter feeding creature that doesn’t need good vision to hunt prey, so it shouldn’t have decent vision.

We would remind them of two simple things: a) that a need to hunt prey would never give complex eyes to a creature that didn’t already have them; and b) who said hunting prey is the only reason for having good vision? Scallops move around quite rapidly, so they do need to see and process visual information from their surroundings well enough to quickly navigate and avoid obstacles.

It will be interesting to see the results of any studies into how the scallop’s brain integrates all the image information from its multiplicity of eyes. We predict we will learn much about rapid underwater image processing and this may inspire the design of new imaging devices.

There is one very important design feature here we mustn’t miss. As the scientists who studied the scallop eyes admit guanine does NOT naturally form square, smooth mirror tiles, nor can guanine put the tiles together into the precise three-dimensional shape needed to focus light into the right places. Although they say “the scallop controls the crystal morphology” we are sure they don’t believe the scallop invented the mirrors. In fact, the design for the mirrors is built into the scallop’s DNA, and the scallop is acting like a man-made robotic device used in the construction of telescope mirrors, i.e. it is programmed to make the mirrors.

To repeat ourselves almost ad-nauseum, designing and building tiled mirror telescopes, and the machinery involved in their construction, takes pre-existing clever design and precision engineering by intelligent engineers who know the properties of the materials, and the purpose of the mirror, who then apply their knowledge and skills to create the mirror. They therefore deserve the credit for achieving this. Therefore, it is inexcusable to ignore the evidence of the Creator God’s pre-existent design and brilliant engineering of the scallop eye.

Evidence News vol. 17 No. 21
13 December 2017
Creation Research Australia

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