Dr. Ivan Schwab, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science
University of California, Davis

Evolution’s Witness: A Story of the Evolution of the Eye
Thursday, October 2, 2008, Ebling Symposium Center, Microbial Sciences Building

With light and predation as catalysts, the first eye appeared during the Cambrian era, 550 million years ago, in a trilobite. The complexity of this eye suggests that development began well before, in the Pre-Cambrian, possibly even in single-celled organisms. The Cambrian explosion was the big bang of evolution and spawned nearly all morphologic forms of the eye. This crucible of evolution was succeeded by descent through unimaginable variety and creativity, with the emergence of at least 10 different optical designs – including the compound, camera style and simple eye and with mirror, scanning or telephoto optics. Vision was a principal, although not the only, determinant of evolution and its direction. Some of these ocular designs are merely curiosities, but others offer the finest visual potential packed into a small space, limited only by the laws of diffraction or physiological optics.

Sponsored by the UW Eye Research Institute, and the UW Pre-Optometry Club, the Evolution Initiative, the Department of Genetics/Medical Genetics, and the Department of Pathobiological Sciences