, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 487-492
Date: 16 Oct 2008

The Evolution of Extraordinary Eyes: The Cases of Flatfishes and Stalk-eyed Flies

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The history of life is an unbroken stream of evolution stretching over 3.5 billion years. In order to study it—and in order to describe it—it must be carved into episodes. If scientists want to understand the origin, say, of bats, they do not run experiments to test a hypothesis about how DNA first evolved on the early Earth. They do not do research on the transition from single-celled protozoans to the first animals 600 million years ago. Likewise, they do not get bogged down with bat evolution after bats first evolved—how, for example, bats spread around the world and how they coevolved with their prey. There is only so much time in the day. Science writers follow the same rules to describe evolution. A newspaper article on the evolution of bats must focus only on that brief episode of life’s history. Let its scope grow too large, and it will be too big for a book—or a shelf of books.

This simple necessity can, unfortunately, give people the wrong impression about evolution. We tend t ...