A new view of old eyes

This 54-million-year-old crane-fly (family Tipulidae) is impressive as a fossil and interesting for what it tells scientists about the fossilisation process.

Analysis by an international team led by Johan Lindgren from Sweden’s Lund University has revealed how the structures of its eyes were altered by the process, suggesting that previous interpretations of the eye structures of other fossilised arthropods, such as trilobites, may need to be reassessed.

The eyes also offer the first known record of a melanin light-screening pigment in any arthropod. 

Compound eyes, found in arthropods such as insects and crustaceans, are the most common visual organs seen in the animal kingdom, the researchers say, and have an evolutionary history dating back at least 520 million years.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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