H Many million-year-old eyes astonish scientists: As researchers from the University of Cologne announced on Thursday, they discovered an eye on a 429 million-year-old fossil of a marine animal that has astonishing similarities with the visual apparatus of today’s bees and dragonflies. The corresponding arthropods were extinct before dinosaurs inhabited the earth.
The specimen of a so-called trilobite described in the journal “Scientific Reports” is very flat and has two protruding, semi-oval eyes on the back of the head, one of which was broken off. The armored arthropods crawled across the ocean floors during the Paleozoic Era and disappeared from the globe during a mass extinction some 250 million years ago.
The trilobite investigated was discovered in the Czech Republic in 1846 and does not actually look unusual for its species. She only examined him because she liked his big head and big eyes, reported Brigitte Schoenemann from the Zoological Department at the University of Cologne, which co-authored the scientific article. When she looked through the microscope, she discovered “something breathtaking”.
With the help of an electronic light microscope, the German and British scientists recognized honeycomb-like structures in the eye of the fossil that are reminiscent of the compound eyes of modern insects. In a compound eye, numerous separate visual units each provide a single pixel, “like in a computer graphic,” said Schoenemann. Human eyes, on the other hand, have a single lens with tens of millions of light-sensitive cells, which enables advanced imaging.