The right eye of the fossil #8211; which was unearthed in Estonia #8211; was partly worn away, giving researchers a clear view inside the organ.
This is likely because the primitive species #8211; called Schmidtiellus reetae #8211; lacked parts of the shell needed for lens formation, the team added. Professor Brigitte Schoenemann, of the University of Cologne, who was involved in the study, said: “This may be the earliest example of an eye that it is possible to find. Older specimens in sediment layers below this fossil contain only traces of the original animals, which were too soft to be fossilised and have disintegrated over time.”
An “exceptional” 530-million-year-old fossil contains what could be the oldest eye ever discovered, according to researchers.
This revealed details of the eye’s structure and function, and how it differs from modern compound eyes.
The team, which included a researcher from the University of Edinburgh, say their findings suggest compound eyes have changed little over 500 million years. Professor Euan Clarkson, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “This exceptional fossil shows us how early animals saw the world around them hundreds of millions of years ago. Remarkably, it also reveals that the structure and function of compound eyes has barely changed in half a billion years.”
Unlike modern compound eyes, the fossil’s eye does not have a lens.