A recent discovery in the field of paleontology reveals probably the oldest predator known to man. The fossils found on Kangaroo Island are being studied by scientists from the University of Adelaide, Australia.
The fossilized eyes belonged to the 500 million-year-old Anomalocaris, a marine creature believed to be at the top of the food chain in prehistoric times. A full story regarding this subject will be available in December’s issue of Nature.
Taking into consideration the studies so far, it seems that the Anomalocaris had extremely acute vision, considered better than any other insects or crustaceans, even by today’s standards. Although this meter-long creature would make a good subject for a science fiction movie, its grasping claws, circular mouth, strange appearance and sharp serrations prove to be quite real, in perspective. Further evidence of this marine predator’s superiority represents its large size for that period and even coprolites containing remains of this creature’s prey.
Thanks to the discovery of its eyes, meticulous analysis shows amazing details when it comes to optical design, with some similarities much alike contemporary crabs, flies and kin. Each eye contains around 16 000 lenses and has a size approximate to 2 inches. The high number of lenses suggests that this creature could hunt with magnificent clarity, making the Anomalocaris such a dangerous predator. Today, only some arthropods, like dragonflies, possess eyes with a similar resolution.
These fossils make the Anomalocaris the ancestor of today’s arthropods, alongside other evolutionary implications that affect a lot of species. It seems that the eyes were one of the first organs to be well developed, even before traditional characteristics present in today’s arthropods, such as walking legs and exoskeletons.
Future analysis of the fossils may indicate even more astonishing facts about this marine predator and it will most certainly keep scientists on their toes for a while.