Cambrian Compound Eyes

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Cambrian compound eyes found according to reports in ScienceDaily, Nature News and ScienceShots 7 December 2011, and ABC News in Science 8 December 2011. John Paterson, from the University of New England, and his colleagues, have discovered the fossilised remains of compound eyes in an extinct creature called Anomalocaris. The fossils were found at Emu Bay on the northern coast of Kangaroo Island, off South Australia, and are dated as over 500 million years old. The eye fossils are exceptionally well preserved and researchers estimate the eyes contained over 16,000 lenses each. This would give the creature very good vision, better than any living creature with compound eyes. Dragonflies have up to 28,000 lenses and the common housefly has only 3,200. Compound eyes are usually associated with creatures with hard exoskeletons, and it has been assumed these two traits evolved together. However, Anomalocaris is thought to have been a soft bodied creature. Robert Gaines, palaeobiologist at Pomona College in Claremont, California commented: “Since these compound eyes themselves are biomineralized, it is not clear to me whether the ancestors of Anomalocaris had a mineralized exoskeleton and lost it early on or if they simply hadn’t evolved them yet. This could stir up debate”. Scientists suggest compound eyes evolved first, and this led to an evolutionary arms race which led to the prey evolving shells, camouflage and burrowing behaviour. Paterson commented: “Such lens-rich compound eyes suggest Anomalocaris was a highly visual hunter. Its prey didn’t stand a chance”. The science news services have certainly portrayed Anomalocaris as a savage killer, with headlines or subheadings such as: “Cambrian predator had killer eyes” (ABC); “World's First Super Predator Had Remarkable Vision” (ScienceDaily); “Terrifying ancient predator had exceptional sight” (ScienceShots). The Nature News article begins with: “Armed with barbed grasping claws and a mouth full of tooth-like serrations, anomalocaridids are thought to have been the top predators in the Cambrian oceans about 500 million years ago”.

ABC, Nature News, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: Did you note the difference between the actual evidence and the stories built around it? The evidence is that perfectly formed and preserved compound eyes that are larger and more complex than any seen in the living world have been found on an apparently extinct fossil creature found on an island off the South Australian coast. The story is all about a ferocious predator 500 million years ago whose eyes structure forced its prey to evolve a hard exoskeleton. Since this creature is extinct, no modern scientists have observed its behaviour or seen it eat anything. Good eyes are useful for many other activities of life, such as navigation or finding a mate. Claws and teeth do not make a creature a savage killer. They are just as useful for eating vegetation. We have said that many times about many other creatures, and it is just as true here. The idea that these compound eyes were a stimulus to the evolution of hard exoskeletons, camouflage and burrowing behaviour is evolutionary wishful thinking. For a soft bodied animal to develop a hard shell or camouflage it needs a change in its genes. The fact that another creature has good eyes to see it with will not enable it to make such a change.

So does this fossil fit well into the Biblical history of the world? Do the compound eyes show brilliant creative design?


What does the fact that the fossil eyes are larger and more complex than existing compound eyes show? Is it evidence that living things are losing complexity, not gaining it?


Is the fact that the Anomalocaris eyes are exquisitely preserved, actual evidence they were buried rapidly and deeply in low oxygen conditions and mineralised quickly, and is this consistent with the creationist position fossils do not require vast ages of rock formation? Of course it is!

The fact that this creature is extinct is also a reminder that ever since man sinned and God cursed the ground, many creatures have died out, and the world is a much degraded place. Overall this fossil is a brilliant reminder that the real history of the world is creative design followed by degeneration and Flood based catastrophic events – a devolution from good to bad to worse. And yes this editor has been to Kangaroo Island quite a few times over the past 40 years and I have seen most of the deposits and fossils collected there and the evidence of rapid burial is undeniable. (Ref. fossilisation, arthropods, optics, world view)

Evidence News 21 December 2011