Sea stars sighted predators 79 million years ago

The mineral bulges (one shown) on the bodies of brittle stars and starfish suggest complex vision evolved in these animals at least 79 million years ago.

Przemysław Gorzelak/Institute of Paleobiology/Polish Academy of Sciences

Starfish and brittle stars may have evolved complex lenselike structures at least 79 million years ago to detect and evade shell-crushing and boring predators flourishing during the Mesozoic era.

Fossils from Poland show that some echinoderms had arm plates with arrays of closely packed bulges made of the mineral form of calcium carbonate. The bulges are similar to the structures that form microlenses in the living, light-sensing brittle star Ophiocoma wendtii, which evades predators quickly by wiggling into dark crevices, researchers report April 1 in Nature Communications.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Paleontology

From the Nature Index

Paid Content