‘”Not only are we the first to analyze these vision genes (opsins) in these early animals, but because we don’t find them in earlier evolving animals like sponges, we can put a date on the evolution of light sensitivity in animals,” said David C. Plachetzki, first author and a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara. The research was conducted with a National Science Foundation dissertation improvement grant.
“We now have a time frame for the evolution of animal light sensitivity. We know its precursors existed roughly 600 million years ago,” said Plachetzki.
Senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor of biology at UCSB, explained that there are only a handful of cases where scientists have documented the very specific mutational events that have given rise to new features during evolution.’