Single-Celled Planktonic Organisms Have Animal-Like Eyes, Scientists Say

Jul 5, 2015


According to a research team headed by Prof Brian Leander of the University of British Columbia’s Departments of Botany and Zoology, single-celled organisms called warnowiid dinoflagellates evolved a tiny version of a multi-cellular eye, possibly to help see their prey better.

It’s an amazingly complex structure for a single-celled organism to have evolved. It contains a collection of sub-cellular organelles that look very much like the lens, cornea, iris and retina of multicellular eyes found in humans and other larger animals,” said Gregory Gavelis, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia and first author on the study published online in the journal Nature.

In fact, the ocelloid (eye-like structure) within the planktonic predator looks so much like a complex eye that it was originally mistaken for the eye of an animal that the plankton had eaten.

Marine biologists still don’t know exactly how warnowiid dinoflagellates use the eye. These organisms use small harpoon-like structures to hunt prey cells in the plankton, many of which are transparent.

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