Can Evolution Make an Eye? – 12 Days of Evolution #4

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[MUSIC]
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[BIRD CHIRP]
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Your eyes are beautiful.
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They’re amazing bits of biological engineering.
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Just like a camera, remove one of their intricate
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parts, and the eye can’t do its job.
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For this reason, many people think eyes couldn’t possibly arise from a blind process like natural
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selection. But that idea doesn’t hold vitreous fluid.
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Light-sensitive cells first showed up in simple single-celled creatures, helping them swim
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towards the sun. Cup-shaped light spots then began to let creatures
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sense light’s direction. Deeper pits eventually formed a pinhole iris,
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increasing the eye’s resolution. Some animals developed a protective, crystalline
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covering over the iris, which later allowed them to focus and control the light entering
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their eye. This is essentially the eye we have today.
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Computer simulations have replayed this selective process in just 350,000 generations, showing
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simple light patches can evolve into camera-like eyes in tiny, adaptive steps,
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1,829 to be precise.
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Nature took a little longer than that, but
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genes, biochemistry, fossils, and anatomy all tell the same story. Eyes are pretty easy
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to evolve. So easy that nature has done it independently 50 to 100 times.
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This kind of complexity, rather than overthrowing Darwin’s theory, is proof of its power.
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So whether it’s an eagle observing ants from atop a skyscraper, a mantis shrimp scanning
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circularly polarized light, or you watching YouTube videos, there’s room for an eye
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in evolution.
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Stay Curious.

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