Origins of vision

Vision likely originated as simple eyespots in simple organisms. It also is traced back to jellyfish and their own simplistic eyespots, which are actually still present in some manner today. That is, jellyfish have areas of photoreceptor cells which don’t allow vision as we know it (they don’t even have brains), but they do allow a sensation of particular wavelengths of light to be perceived. These wavelengths often indicate depth (and maybe predators), which in turn may indicate food source (pelagic jellyfish don’t tend to get to plump).

Recent research has discovered the genetic pathway involved in light sensitivity in a close relative of the jellyfish.

“We determined which genetic ‘gateway,’ or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,” said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.”

This allows for a prediction using evolution: all organisms alive today which share a common ancestry with hydras will share this same genetic gateway. Organisms like flies, as the article points out, do not share this ancestry with vertebrates and as such do not share this genetic gateway. If they did share it, then wow. Creationists could actually trot out their improbability arguments.

“This work picks up on earlier studies of the hydra in my lab, and continues to challenge the misunderstanding that evolution represents a ladder-like march of progress, with humans at the pinnacle,” said Oakley. “Instead, it illustrates how all organisms — humans included — are a complex mix of ancient and new characteristics.”

God wasn’t such a good guy

*nor is he.