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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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Stephen Fry lends voice to frog conservation film

News Story 1
 Comedian and author Stephen Fry has lent his voice to a new animation that hopes to raise awareness of deadly ranavirus, which is threatening the UK’s frogs.

Research by ZSL, who created the short film, suggests that at least 20 per cent of ranavirus cases over the past three decades, could be attributed to human introductions. This includes pond owners introducing fish, frog spawn and plants from other environments.

Amphibian disease expert Dr Stephen Price said: “People can help stop the spread by avoiding moving potentially infected material such as spawn, tadpoles, pond water and plants into their own pond. Disinfecting footwear or pond nets before using them elsewhere will also help.” 

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BVA Welsh Branch elects new president

Veterinary surgeon Ifan Lloyd was elected president of the BVA Welsh Branch at its AGM on 25 June.

Ifan has worked mainly in mixed practice since graduating from Cambridge University in 1988. He was a partner at St James Veterinary Group for 23 years and has continued to work part time at the practice since retiring in 2017.

He is passionate about animal health and disease eradication. He is a director of Cefn Gwlad Solutions, a company set up to lead bovine TB programmes in collaboration with other stakeholders. He is also director of lechyd Da (gwledig), the bTB testing delivery partner in South Wales.

Ifan said, “As a founding member of BVA Welsh Branch I am honoured and delighted to be elected as President. I have been passionate about representing the veterinary profession in Wales for many years and I plan to use this experience to represent my colleagues to the best of my abilities.”