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Extinct crustacean Dollocaris was all eyes

A team of researchers, among them Jean Vannier from the Laboratory of geology of Lyon, has succeeded in reconstructing a 160 million year old compound eye of a fossil crustacean found in southeastern France visible.

Vision has revolutionized the way animals explore their environment and interact with each other and rapidly became a major driving force in animal evolution. However, direct evidence of how ancient animals could perceive their environment is extremely difficult to obtain because internal eye structures are almost never fossilized. Here, we reconstruct with unprecedented resolution the three-dimensional structure of the huge compound eye of a 160-million-year-old thylacocephalan arthropod from the La Voulte exceptional fossil biota in SE France. This arthropod had about 18,000 lenses on each eye, which is a record among extinct and extant arthropods and is surpassed only by modern dragonflies. Combined information about its eyes, internal organs and gut contents obtained by X-ray microtomography lead to the conclusion that this thylacocephalan arthropod was a visual hunter probably adapted to illuminated environments, thus contradicting the hypothesis that La Voulte was a deep-water environment.
Contact :
Jean VANNIER, directeur de recherche CNRS au LGL (04 72 44 81 44)
Published on January 20, 2016 Updated on January 27, 2016