Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Ancient starfish spotted predators


Credit: Przemysław Gorzelak/Polish Academy of Sciences

Sea stars and some other echinoderms might have had complex visual systems for roughly the past 80 million years.

Some existing echinoderms, such as brittle stars, are covered in crystal calcite microlenses that are sensitive to light. To determine the evolutionary history of these structures, Przemysław Gorzelak at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw and his team analysed 75-million-year-old brittle-star and starfish fossils using a scanning electron microscope. Both kinds of fossil contained structures (pictured) that matched modern echinoderms' microlenses in size and shape.

After an explosion in the diversity of fish and crustacean predators began around 80 million years ago, echinoderms may have developed visual systems to avoid such predators, the researchers say.

Nature Commun. 5, 3576 (2014)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ancient starfish spotted predators. Nature 508, 10 (2014).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing