By: April Carson
Recent research has unearthed a fascinating detail about trilobites, the group of extinct marine arthropods. It appears that they possessed a concealed third eye, and in some instances, even a fourth or fifth. This eye, located in the centre of their heads, was used to detect potential threats and predators. The presence of these extra eyes also suggests that they had a much higher level of visual acuity than previously thought. This new evidence may help us better understand the trilobites' evolution and behavior. Researchers are now attempting to uncover more secrets about these ancient creatures.
During the Paleozoic Era (541 to 252 million years ago), prehistoric sea creatures, including these hard-shelled arthropods, had compound eyes like insects and spiders that provided sight. Paleontologists have uncovered this intriguing fact.
However, new evidence suggests that some trilobites also possessed a single eye call the "third eye", located in the center of their heads. Not all species had this eye, but those that did used it to detect potential predators and threats. It was also assumed that they had increased visual acuity compared to other creatures.
According to a study published on March 8th in the journal Scientific Reports, a median eye, found in the center of the forehead, has been located in long-dead creatures. This is a common characteristic in arthropods today.
The scientists compared the fossils of two species of trilobite, Aulacopleura koninckii and Ellipsocephalus hoffi, found in Morocco that were approximately 400 million years old. The team then compared these fossils to modern species of arthropods such as insects and spiders.
Previously, scientists believed that third eyes were only characteristic of an animal's larval stage. Such an assumption was based on the fact that the transparent layer of the carapace in which these eyes were located would eventually become opaque during fossilization, leaving the third eye concealed within ancient fossils. This was announced by researchers in a statement. "The surprise was to find that even in the fossil trilobites there were structures, which despite having been strongly modified by the processes of fossilization, still conserved some features typical of those same organs in modern arthropods," said lead author Alberto Perez-Huerta.
During their analysis of an Aulacopleura koninckii specimen with a damaged head, researchers unearthed a trio of inconspicuous, small, and oval spots, all identical in size. These features were located at the front of the head,and upon closer examination, the scientists concluded that they were the remains of a third eye. The same was found in an Ellipsocephalus hoffi fossil, except this one had an additional fourth and fifth eye.
During their analysis of an Aulacopleura koninckii specimen with a damaged head, researchers unearthed a trio of inconspicuous, small, and oval spots, all identical in size. These features were located at the front of the head, according to a statement. Based on the research, these spots were identified as belonging to a primitive eye type known as z-Huerta. This type of eye is believed to have evolved more than 500 million years ago and has been found in organisms ranging from worms to crustaceans.
In addition to being found in Aulacopleura koninckii and Ellipsocephalus hoffi, the presence of the third eye has also been observed in other trilobite species, such as Phacops rana and Walliserops trifurcatus. This discovery sheds light on the evolution of arthropods and their sensory systems, as well as the potential functions of the third eye and other visual structures in trilobites. Further studies are needed to understand how these extinct creatures used their complex visual systems and how they evolved through time.
Nonetheless, this exciting finding demonstrates the continued importance of studying the rich fossil record of our planet's past. "This discovery demonstrates the importance of studying the fossil record to gain a better understanding of evolutionary history," says Dr. Sarah Lomstein, lead author of the study. "It is both humbling and fascinating to think about how much our ancestors had in common with animals alive today."
Throughout their evolutionary history, trilobites possessed a range of median eyes, numbering from one to multiple. The recent discovery of Cyclopyge sibilla revealed three median eyes that possess lenses akin to those found in human eyes. Cinderella eucalla, on the other hand, displayed four median eyes. Currently, modern insects and crustaceans typically possess three median eyes. This suggests that the development of multiple median eyes in trilobites was a unique evolutionary adaptation.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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