Anomalocaris was a squidlike predator with grasping claws that lived more than 500 million years ago.
Now paleontologists from Australia have found a pair of fossilized eyes belonging to the creature. To say the least, the discovery supports the theory that it was a highly visual predator.
The researchers report that anomalocaris had extraordinarily complex eyes, with 16,000 hexagonal lenses each. The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Nature.
“There wasn’t any direct evidence before, but now we see the lenses that prove it,” said the study’s lead author, John R. Paterson, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. “As a general rule, you can kind of think of lenses as pixels on a computer screen,” he said. “If you have more pixels, you’re going to have a much clearer picture.”
The only modern arthropod that may exceed anomalocaris is the dragonfly, which can have up to 28,000 lenses in each eye.
The fossil, estimated to be 515 million years old, was found in the Emu Bay Shale of South Australia State. Although other fully intact fossils of anomalocaris have been found before, this is the first one to reveal the optical design of its eyes.
“The significance of the eyes here is that we can see the lenses in all their glory,” Dr. Paterson said.