Keeping an eye on evolution

December 3, 2007

University of Queensland research has found the “missing link” in the evolution of the eye.

Professor Shaun Collin, from UQ's School of Biomedical Sciences, together with colleagues from the Australian National University and the University of Pennsylvania, have identified animals that have eyes that bridge the evolutionary link between those designed to simply differentiate light from dark to those that possess a camera-like eye.

Professor Collin said his research gathered evidence from multiple branches of biology, in support of a gradual evolution of the eye, and it proposes an explicit scenario to explain how it was that our eye emerged.

“Charles Darwin wasn't able to reconcile the evolution of the eye given its complexities and diversity of eye designs,” Professor Collin said.

“So it was a major surprise for us that we have found what appears to be a clear progression from a simple eye to a complex eye, which occurred over a relatively short period (30 million years) in evolutionary history.”

Professor Collin said the researchers studied a very primitive fish, the hagfish, to discover the missing link.

“This animal diverged from our own line somewhere around 530 million years ago,” he said.

“Hagfish are simple, eel-shaped jawless and ugly animals, that inhabit the oceans at great depth, and that are renowned for the revolting ‘slime' they exude when disturbed.

“They behave as if blind, though they have a primitive eye-like structure beneath an opaque eye-patch on either side of the head. Previously it had widely been thought that the hagfish eye had degenerated from a lamprey-like precursor.

“But our research suggests hagfish did not degenerate from lamprey-like ancestors, but are instead the remnants of an earlier sister group.”

Professor Collin's research with Professor Trevor Lamb from the Australian National University and Professor Ed Pugh from the University of Pennsylvania, was recently published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Variations of a single gene drive diverse pigeon feather patterns

Related Stories

Insights into new corneal surgery

July 17, 2018

An innovative vision-restoring procedure performed in Australia for less than 10 years has been reported on in detail for the first time.

Fetal gene therapy prevents fatal neurodegenerative disease

July 16, 2018

A fatal neurodegenerative condition known as Gaucher disease can be prevented in mice following fetal gene therapy, finds a new study led by UCL, the KK Women's and Children's Hospital and National University Health System ...

Recommended for you

Supersharp images from new VLT adaptive optics

July 18, 2018

ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) has achieved first light with a new adaptive optics mode called laser tomography—and has captured remarkably sharp test images of the planet Neptune and other objects. The MUSE instrument ...

Study finds climate determines shapes of river basins

July 18, 2018

There are more than 1 million river basins carved into the topography of the United States, each collecting rainwater to feed the rivers that cut through them. Some basins are as small as individual streams, while others ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.