Fossil fish eye has 300 million-year-old rods and cones

Oldest evidence found of color vision cells

preserved fish

BETTER TO SEE YOU WITH  The dark spots that once contained eyes in this beautifully preserved fish still have evidence of the rods and cones required for color vision. 

G. Tanaka et al/Nature Communications 2014

Examining the eye of a beautifully preserved specimen of the ancient jawed fish Acanthodes bridgei from a 300 million-year-old rock formation in Kansas, scientists have found the first evidence of fossilized rods and cones. Located in the retina, these important cells absorb light and allow animals to see both color and contrast, but the delicate structures usually decay quickly after an animal’s death. Quick burial in a lagoon environment helped preserve this fossil. Early fish saw life in color, Gengo Tanaka of Kumamoto University in Japan and colleagues report December 23 in Nature Communications

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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