In our ancient genealogy tree, our first ancestors lived in the sea. In their evolutionary path, they experienced the transition from the aquatic realm to the dry land. First and foremost, our imagination would tell us that in order to conquer the land, they would have needed to grow a pair of legs. However, this transformation was actually a secondary process in what really happened. A new study suggests that it was a temptation that came with an improved vision that triggered the evolution of the first vertebrate animals.
Around 385 million years ago, the first vertebrate animals lived in the sea. However, their life was about to change. A team of researchers at the Northwestern University in U.S. conducted a study based on the fossil record. They discovered that our ancient ancestors needed to increase the size of their eyes three times bigger than before so as to make it on the land. They believe that once their eyesight was better, large animals managed to find a new source of food for the first time. This source was of course on land, and it was easier to catch that in water.
Once they got their improved vision, they become aware of the better survival possibilities that awaited them on the soil. This instinct triggered an evolutionary move that allowed them to reach the unreachable. Thus, they managed to turn their fins into legs. Professor Malcolm MacIver stated that his team was the first one ever to attribute to an improved vision such an extraordinary capacity. He mentioned that the finding that led to their study was that vertebrates went through an eyesight transformation just before they migrated from sea to land.
The fact is that insects and invertebrates reigned over the land for 50 million years before vertebrates. This medium represented a real feast for our aquatic ancestors. Moreover, it was also a very accessible cornucopia, with centipedes, millipedes, spiders, and other sources of food at every step.
What is more is that researchers believe that this transition led to deeper analytical skills. While in water, vertebrates were relying on their instinct to discern from predator to prey in a split-second. However, the viewing through the air is clearer than in water. Vertebrates had more time to understand the world around them which might have led to a more strategic thinking.
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