The humble trilobite, a helmet-headed creature that swam the ocean hundreds of millions of years ago, hid an extraordinary secret called the “hypereye,” never seen in the animal kingdom.
By pondering X-ray According to the images, researchers found that certain species of trilobites (horseshoe crabs and distantly related extinct arthropods) have hundreds of lenses, a unique neural network for processing and transmitting signals, and multiple optic nerves. I discovered that I have a “super compound eye” that I have prepared.September 30th of the journal Science report..
Related: Why are trilobites extinct?
Today’s arthropods, such as dragonflies and mantis shrimp, are made up of a myriad of eye facets called omatidia, each also known for its powerful compound eyes, each with its own lens, such as a disco ball.
However, new discoveries show that trilobites from the family Facopus had a much larger and more complex compound eye than its modern arthropod relatives. Each of their eyes (they had one on the left and one on the right) had hundreds of lenses. These primary lenses were nearly a millimeter in diameter and were thousands of times larger than normal arthropods. Located under them like the bulbs of a car’s headlights, there were six (or more) faceted substructures that resembled a typical compound eye. “Therefore, each large compound eye is a hyper compound eye with up to 200 compound eyes each,” Brigitte Schoenemann, a paleontologist and lead author of the study at the University of Cologne, Germany, told Live Science by email.
Trilobites are creatures that have lived from the beginning Cambrian (521 million years ago) On the seabed until the end of the Permian (252 million years ago). Most were scavengers or plankton eaters, but some may have been predators hunting aquatic worms. The ruins are often found in Cambrian limestone. However, despite being ubiquitous in fossil records, scientists still question their physiology and evolutionary history.
To answer some of these questions, researchers used photo-enhancement technology to examine dozens of archived photographs and cross-reference them with recent findings. In the process, they also settled many years of scientific debate. They confirmed that a mysterious series of “fibers” found in X-ray images over 40 years ago was actually bundled into the optic nerve connected to the trilobite’s eye.
“It’s always hard to guess the function of ancient extinct organisms,” said Nigel Hughes, a trilobite expert at the University of California, Riverside, who wasn’t involved in the study. In fact, Hughes pointed out that even the strange features of living things missed the explanation. For example, the function of narwhal’s long, horn-like teeth is still controversial. Smithsonian Castle..
However, because optical systems have only one function, vision, the eyes are a little easier to analyze than teeth and horns, Hughes said. “We know it’s an eye from the structure,” he said, and it makes sense that the attached filament is a nerve. “I think it’s a pretty compelling argument in the treatise.” It remains a mystery why trilobites need so much vision.
The radiograph itself was taken by a professional Siemens radiologist and amateur paleontologist Wilhelm Sturmer. In the 1970s, Sturmer installed an X-ray probe inside a VW bus and created a new way to study fossils. X-ray paleontology allowed him to look into the hard rocks of the scene and take some of his most sophisticated fossil photographs. Day.
Upon examining the Hunsrück quarry, a fossil quarry within a driving distance of his home in Munich, Germany, Sturmer discovered a world of petrified creatures buried in rocks. Surprisingly, these specimens, including the Phacopida trilobite, were so well preserved that even delicate soft tissues were visible. Stürmer and his collaborator Jan Bergström pointed out that trilobites appear to have fossilized “fibers” connected to the compound eye. Paläontologische Zeitschrift..
Related: In the image: Filter feeder Cumbrian creatures
But when Sturmer brought these discoveries before other paleontologists, “his colleagues in the scientific community laughed at him,” Schoenemann said. The general wisdom at the time was that soft tissues such as nerves simply did not fossilize. According to Schoenemann, his critics argued that Stürmer must have mistaken the gill filament for optic nerve tissue. However, the radiologist continued to stick to his belief.
“Sturmer believed in his theory until his bitter death in 1986,” Schoenemann said. Almost half a century later, Shaneman and her team feel they have finally proved his work.
Sadly, like Wilhelm Sturmer, the Phacopida trilobites are no longer with us — they were extinct at the end of about 358 million years ago. Devonian, Along with about 75 percent of all life on Earth, Shaneman said. “But certainly not because of their sophisticated, highly adapted eyes.”
Originally published in Live Science.
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