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Discovery sheds light on how vertebrates see
Professor Gabbot
Professor Sarah Gabbot led the research.
Researchers identify details in eyes of fossilised fish

A study of fossilised fish has quashed a long-standing theory on how vertebrates see.

After million's of years of degeneration, today's hagfish are completely blind. Research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, however, suggests that ancient hagfish had good vision.

In the study, researchers analysed detail in the eyes of 300-million-year-old lamprey and hagfish fossils.

Using a high-powered microscope, they found that fossil retina is composed of minute structures called melanosomes. These are the same structures that occur in human eyes and prevent stray light bouncing around in the eye, allowing us to form a clear image.

This is the first time that such detail in fossils has been revealed. Before now it was thought that such anatomical details could not be preserved.

Professor Sarah Gabbot, who led the research, explains: “To date models of vertebrate eye evolution focus only on living animals and the blind and ‘rudimentary’ hagfish eye was held-up as critical evidence of an intermediate stage in eye evolution.

"Living hagfish eyes appeared to sit between the simple light sensitive eye ‘spots’ of non-vertebrates and the sophisticated camera-style eyes of lampreys and most other vertebrates.”

Detail observed in the hagfish fossil suggest it had a functional visual system. This means that the vision of living hagfish has been lost through millions of years of evolution, and the animal is therefore not as primitively simple as researchers first thought.

Professor Gabbot says that she will now inspect the eyes of other ancient vertebrate fossils to see if it is possible to build a picture of the sequence of events that took place in early vertebrate eye evolution.


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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
News Shorts
New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”