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Look after your eyes - they are half a billion years old

(The ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science) Look after your eyes – they are at least half a billion years old, and a good deal older than your brain. The eyes are one of our most remarkable and precious organs, yet their origins have been shrouded in mystery until quite recently, explains Professor Trevor Lamb of The Vision Centre and Australian National University, who has devoted more than 30 years to investigating their secrets.
Prof. Lamb has just published a major scientific review of the origin of the vertebrate eye and vision, summarising the findings of hundreds of scientists round the world…
The deep origins of 'sight' go back more than 700 million years when the earth was inhabited only by single-celled amoeba-like animals, algae, corals and bacteria. At this time the first light-sensitive chemicals, known as opsins, made their appearance and were used in rudimentary ways by some organisms to sense day from night.
Ancient cells already had signalling cascades that sensed chemicals in their environment, and the advent of opsins allowed them to sense light. "But these animals were tiny, and had no nervous system to process signals from their light sensors," he explains.
Over the following 200 million years those simple light-sensitive cells and their opsins slowly and progressively became better at detecting light – they became more sensitive, faster, and more reliable – until around 500 million years ago they already closely resembled the cone cells of our present day eyes.
"The first true eyes, consisting of clumps of light-sensing cells, only start to show up in the Cambrian, about 500 million years ago – and represent a huge leap in the evolutionary arms race," Prof. Lamb says. "Creatures that could see clearly had the jump on those that couldn't.
Community: One of the craziest notions that creationists have come up with is that the eye is too complex to have evolved. Prof. Lamb shows us that it most certainly did.
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