Navigation Links
Seeing the serpent

The ability to spot venomous snakes may have played a major role in the evolution of monkeys, apes and humans, according to a new hypothesis by Lynne Isbell, professor of anthropology at UC Davis. The work is published in the July issue of the Journal of Human Evolution.

Primates have good vision, enlarged brains, and grasping hands and feet, and use their vision to guide reaching and grasping. Scientists have thought that these characteristics evolved together as early primates used their hands and eyes to grab insects and other small prey, or to handle and examine fruit and other foods.

Isbell suggests instead that primates developed good close-up eyesight to avoid a dangerous predator -- the snake.

"A snake is the only predator you really need to see close up. If it's a long way away it's not dangerous," Isbell said.

Neurological studies by others show that the structure of the brain's visual system does not actually fit with the idea that vision evolved along with reaching and grasping, Isbell said. But the visual system does seem to be well connected to the "fear module," brain structures involved in vigilance, fear and learning.

Fossils and DNA evidence show that snakes were likely the first serious predators of modern mammals, which evolved about 100 million years ago. Fossils of snakes with mouths big enough to eat those mammals appear at about the same time. Other animals that could have eaten our ancestors, such as big cats, and hawks and eagles, evolved much later.

Venomous snakes evolved about 60 million years ago, raising the stakes and forcing primates to get better at detecting them.

"There's an evolutionary arms race between the predators and prey. Primates get better at spotting and avoiding snakes, so the snakes get better at concealment, or more venomous, and the primates respond," Isbell said.

Some primate groups less threatened by snakes show fewer signs of evolutionary press ure to evolve better vision. For example, the lemurs of Madagascar do not have any venomous snakes in their environment, and in evolutionary terms "have stayed where they are," Isbell said. In South America, monkeys arrived millions of years before venomous snakes, and show less specialization in their visual system compared with Old World monkeys and apes, which all have good vision, including color.

Having evolved for one purpose, a good eye for color, detail and movement later became useful for other purposes, such as social interactions in groups.

Isbell is currently working on a book about primate origins, including her snake hypothesis.


'"/>

Source:University of California - Davis


Related biology news :

1. Seeing the forest and the trees
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/9/2016)... Paris Police Prefecture ... solution to ensure the safety of people and operations in ... major tournament Teleste, an international technology group specialised ... today that its video security solution will be utilised by ... public safety across the country. The system roll-out is scheduled ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016   The Weather Company , ... Watson Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers will be ... able to ask questions via voice or text and receive ... Marketers have long sought an advertising ... that can be personal, relevant and valuable; and can scale ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... 2016  VoiceIt is excited to announce its ... By working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass will ... VoicePass take slightly different approaches to voice biometrics, ... and usability. ... partnership. "This marketing and technology partnership ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/22/2016)... 22, 2016 Cell Applications, Inc. and ... to produce up to one billion human induced ... one week. These high-quality, consistent stem cells enable ... and spend more time doing meaningful, relevant research. ... high-volume manufacturing process that produces affordable, reliable HiPSC ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... ANGELES , June 22, 2016   StockNewsNow.com ... SNNLive Video Interview with Dr. Nader Pourhassan , ... biotechnology company focused on the clinical development and potential ... prevention of HIV infection, according to the company,s website ... recorded on Tuesday, June 7 th , 2016, at ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... ... June 21, 2016 , ... New light-based technologies that facilitate ... tissue — promise to enable both compact, wearable devices for point-of-care diagnostics as well ... the skin. , Recent work and visionary future directions are detailed in a new ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... and ALBANY, N.Y. ... Corporation (Teewinot) and Albany Molecular Research, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... has licensed Teewinot,s technology to produce and sell ... standard. The CBCA analytical standard is manufactured using ... the expression of cannabinoid biosynthetic genes in microorganisms ...
Breaking Biology Technology: