South Australian Museum and University of Adelaide scientists working on fossils from Kangaroo Island, South Australia, have found eyes belonging to a giant 500 million-year-old marine predator that sat at the top of the earth's first food chain.
This important story will be accompanied by an artist's impression of the super predator on the front cover of the 8 December 2011 issue of Nature.
Palaeontologists have discovered exceptionally preserved fossil eyes of the top predator in the Cambrian ocean from over 500 million years ago: the fearsome metre-long Anomalocaris.
The scientists show that the world's first apex predator had highly acute vision, rivalling or exceeding that of most living insects and crustaceans.
The international team behind this discovery includes two Adelaide researchers, Dr Michael Lee (SA Museum and University of Adelaide) and Dr Jim Jago (SA Museum and UniSA), and was led by Dr John Paterson (University of New England).
The World's Oldest Apex Predator
Anomalocaris is the stuff of nightmares and sci-fi movies. It is considered to be at the top of the earliest food chains because of its large body size, formidable grasping claws at the front of its head and a circular mouth with razor-sharp serrations.
Supporting evidence of this predator's dominance includes damage to contemporaneous trilobites, and even its fossilised poo (or coprolites) containing the remains of its prey.
The discovery of its stalked eyes - showing astonishing details of its optical design - from a 515 million-year-old deposit on Kangaroo Island in South Australia now confirms it had superb vision to support its predatory lifestyle.
|Contact: Crispin Savage, South Australian Museum|
University of Adelaide