“Deadly Vision” –500-Year Old Fossil Eyes of Super Predator Found


Scientists working on fossils from Kangaroo Island, South Australia, have found the stalked eyes and lenses of Anomalocaris from South Australia,  belonging to a giant 500 million-year-old marine predator that sat at the top of the earth's first food chain. The existence of highly sophisticated, visual hunters within Cambrian communities would have accelerated the predator-prey 'arms race' that began during this important phase in early animal evolution over half a billion years ago.

Palaeontologists have discovered exceptionally preserved fossil eyes of the terrifing meter-long Anomalocaris –a top predator in the Cambrian ocean from over 500 million years ago. The world's first alpha predator had highly acute vision, rivalling or exceeding that of most living insects and crustaceans.

This formidable creature is positioned  to be at the top of the earliest food chains because of its large body size, formidable grasping claws at the front of its head and a circular mouth with razor-sharp serrations.
Supporting evidence of this predator's dominance includes damage to contemporaneous trilobites, and even its fossilised dung containing the remains of its prey.

The fossils represent stalked compound eyes – the multi-faceted variety seen in arthropods such as flies, crabs and kin – and are amongst the largest to have ever existed, with each eye up to 3 cm in length and containing over 16,000 lenses.

The number of lenses and other aspects of their optical design suggest that Anomalocaris would have seen its world with exceptional clarity whilst hunting in well-lit waters. Only a few arthropods, such as modern predatory dragonflies, have similar resolution.

The discovery of powerful compound eyes in Anomalocaris confirms it as a close relative of arthropods, demonstrating that this particular type of visual organ appeared and was elaborated upon very early during arthropod evolution, originating before other characteristic anatomical structures of this group, such as a hardened exoskeleton and walking legs.

Provided by University of Adelaide

Image credit: http://bygonebeasts.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/anomalocaris/


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