A while back, I summarized a review of the evolution of eyes across the whole of the metazoa — it doesn't matter whether we're looking at flies or jellyfish or salmon or shrimp, when you get right down to the biochemistry and cell biology of photoreception, the common ancestry of the visual system is apparent. Vision evolved in the pre-Cambrian, and we have all inherited the same basic machinery — since then, we've mainly been elaborating, refining, and randomly varying the structures that add functionality to the eye.
Now there's a new and wonderfully comprehensive review of the evolution of eyes in one specific lineage, the vertebrates. The message is that, once again, all the heavy lifting, the evolution of a muscled eyeball with a lens and retinal circuitry, was accomplished early, between 550 and 500 million years ago. Most of what biology has been doing since is tweaking — significant tweaking, I'm sure, but the differences between a lamprey eye and our eyes are in the details, not the overall structure.
Continue reading "Evolution of vertebrate eyes" (on Pharyngula)