Power Of Eyes, Not Limbs, First Led Fish Onto Land 385 Million Years Ago

Posted: Mar 8 2017, 4:54am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Power of Eyes, Not Limbs, First Led Fish onto Land 385 Million Years Ago
A side view of a 3-D model of Tiktaalik in a murky waterway in the Devonian, 385 million years ago, looking out above the water line through eyes set on top of the skull, and breathing through spiracles located just behind the eyes. Credit: Malcolm MacIver, Northwestern University
  • Vision, not limbs, led our aquatic ancestors to make the leap from water to land

Research suggests fish vision led it to land instead of limbs

The study from Northwestern University and Claremont McKenna, Scripps and Pitzer colleges suggests that eyes instead of limbs helped fish get to land.

A research argument shows that our aquatic ancestors entered land from water. Animals like crocodiles first observed easy meals on earth and later developed limbs that helped them to reach there.

The researchers of the study included neuro-scientist and engineer Malcolm A. MacIver of Northwestern and evolutionary biologist and paleontologist Lars Schmitz of Claremont McKenna, Scripps and Pitzer colleges.

The team researched on fossils and found that they had eyes three times bigger before the transition of water to land. Due to a huge size, the eyes extended to the head top from its sides.

The creatures with such large eyes had vast visual range that perhaps also had large brains. The creatures were able to plan instead of reacting just like fish.

Scientists are still debating on human existence on earth millions of years ago. This is the first time scientists evaluate that, we came to earth through vision, explained MacIver, professor of biomedical engineering and of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering.

Scientists observed an increased visual ability in vertebrates before water’s transition to land. The belief is based on a hypothesis that says, perhaps millipedes, spiders, and centipedes evolved with limbs from fins.

Through large eyes fish could see much farther in air than in water. The triple sized eyes of the animals occurred millions of years ago before the existence of terrestrial animals.

Bigger eyes can’t give any benefit in water due to limited vision, but it’s very useful to see in the air, explained Schmitz, assistant professor of biology at the W.M. Keck Science Department, a joint program of Claremont McKenna, Scripps and Pitzer colleges.

Scientists believe that a group of animals on land with large eyes went back to water, stayed there for years and developed smaller eyes as in fish.

The study involved 59 fossil samples from the time before water’s transition to land, during and after transition. Scientists studied computer simulations for research. The team measured the size of fossils’ eye sockets and head length that help find the size of animal and his eyes.

The study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 7 with the title, "Massive Increase in Visual Range Preceded the Origin of Terrestrial Vertebrates."

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