Scientists Reconstruct Compound Eye of 160-Million-Year-Old Fossil Crustacean; Work Shows, for First Time, That Complete Structure of a Fossilized Compound Eye, Including Soft Tissue, Can be Analyzed & Resolved

Scientists from Cologne in Germany and from Lyon in France have succeeded in determining the internal structure of an approximately 160-million-year-old compound eye (Dollocaris ingens van Straelen, 1923, Thylacocephala) from the Middle Jurassic period. The eye was discovered at the La Voulte deposit in southeastern France. The eyes of this crustacean consist of approximately 18,000 facets, and because each of these facets contributes to the entire image as pixels contribute to a computer graphic, the eye of this crustacean belongs to the most accurate in the arthropod realm. With reconstruction of the eye’s structure, the scientists succeeded in making the structure of soft tissue visible – which was previously considered to be impossible. Together with palaeontologist Dr. Jean Vannier, (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon) and other colleagues, zoologist Dr. Brigitte Schoenemann from the University of Cologne played a leading role in this research. The new research was reported online in an open-access article in Nature Communications on January 19, 2016. The article is titled “Exceptional Preservation in Eye Structure in Arthropod Visual Predators from the Middle Jurassic.” The construction of the crustacean’s high-performance eye most closely resembles that of a bee or a dragonfly. Most likely it also functioned in a similar way. A physical analysis revealed that this crustacean was active during the day and lived in the light-flooded parts of the ocean. An analysis of its stomach showed that it chased smaller sea organisms and fed on them. This research work is important because, until now, researchers thought that only the hard parts of an animal, such as shells or bones, could be preserved.
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