(Pictured above is a hydra, with photosensitive “vision” genes highlighted in blue.)
UCSB scientists think they may have pinpointed the time at which organisms developed sight. Research by biology grad student David Plachetzki and others, published this week in scientific journal PLoS ONE, purportedly refutes anti-evolutionist theory that mutations cannot produce new traits in animals, said assistant biology professor Todd Oakley. The study describes an eons-old DNA aberration in the aquatic predator Hydra allowed it to sense light and “see” prey despite lacking eyes. “We now have a time frame for the evolution of animal light sensitivity. We know its precursors existed roughly 600 million years ago,” said Plachetzki in a pres statement from UCSB. Researchers say that studying the Hydra allowed them to put a date on the development of vision genes because they could not find them in “other evolving animals” like sponges.