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Evolution of the Eye

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Eyes abound in the animal kingdom. Some are large as basketballs and others are just fractions of a millimetre. Eyes also come in many different types, such as the compound eyes of insects, the mirror eyes of scallops or our own camera-like eyes. Common to all animal eyes is that they serve the same fundamental role of collecting external information for guiding the animal’s behaviour. But behaviours vary tremendously across the animal kingdom, and it turns out this is the key to understand how eyes evolved. In the lecture we will take a tour from the first animals that could only sense the presence of light, to those that saw the first crude image of the world and finally to animals that use acute vision for interacting with other animals. Amazingly, all these stages of eye evolution still exist in animals living today, and this is how we can unravel the evolution of behaviours that has been the driving force behind eye evolution.

Dan-E. Nilsson is a professor of functional zoology at Lund University in Sweden. He is a fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and several other academic societies. He is the head of The Lund Vision Group, which is an internationally leading centre for comparative vision research. He has co-authored the popular textbook Animal Eyes published by Oxford University Press.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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