Vision Evolved Only Once in Animals?
The evolutionary origins of vision remain hotly debated, partly due to inconsistent reports of phylogenetic relationships among the earliest opsin-possessing animals.
Dr Davide Pisani of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences and colleagues at NUI Maynooth performed a computational analysis to test every hypothesis of opsin evolution proposed to date.
Using this information, the researchers developed a timeline with an opsin ancestor common to all groups appearing some 700 million years ago. This opsin was considered 'blind' yet underwent key genetic changes over the span of 11 million years that conveyed the ability to detect light.
Dr Pisani said: "The great relevance of our study is that we traced the earliest origin of vision and we found that it originated only once in animals. This is an astonishing discovery because it implies that our study uncovered, in consequence, how and when vision evolved in humans."
This story has been translated into Portuguese.