Ancient predator had eyes with 16,000 lenses

By | December 8, 2011

Ancient predator had eyes with 16000 lenses


The three-foot Cambrian super-predator Anomalocaris used the claws protruding from its head to shovel prey into its circular mouth on its underside. Katrina Kenny & University of Adelaide/

Anomalocaris, an apex predator that roamed the seas some 500 million years ago, had compound eyes with acute vision, a new fossil discovery shows. The biggest, scariest predator of the ancient Cambrian oceans just got a lot more menacing: Researchers have found a pair of fossilized eyes that show the beast had excellent vision.

“The animal itself has been known for quite some time, but we’ve never known the detail of the eyes,” study researcher John Paterson, of the University of New England in Australia, told LiveScience. “It can tell us a great deal about how it saw its world and it also supports that it’s one of the key predators during the Cambrian period.”

The group of predators in question, which belong to the genus Anomalocaris, could reach more than 3 feet (1 meter) long and lived in shallow oceans more than 500 million years ago. The researchers call it the “world’s first apex predator,” because it had highly acute vision and was much larger than other animals in the ocean at that time. It also had large claws and toothlike serrations in its mouth to tear apart trilobites.

“When you look at the animal it has these really gnarly looking grasping claws at the top of its head, for grasping onto its prey,” Paterson said. “It used these grasping claws at the front to shove its prey into its circular mouth, which is also fairly fearsome looking.”

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