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Dr Andrew R Parker, Research Leader
Department of Zoology>
The Natural History Museum

Abstract -
Ancient vision and the cause of the Cambrian explosion
Suddenly, and for no obvious reason, the range and variety of animals erupted around 530 million years ago. This was during the Cambrian period, and it represents life’s ‘big bang’. On a seemingly separate subject, the first animal to evolve vision was a Cambrian trilobite, a distant relative of spiders and shrimps. Before long it had also evolved swimming capabilities and strong, grasping limbs and mouthparts: it had become an active predator – in fact, the first active predator, with visual search capabilities. If the first eye is added to the geological timescale, the order of events becomes the introduction of vision, first, followed closely by the Cambrian explosion, second. Maybe this is more than mere coincidence.

Andrew Parker
was born in England in 1967. He received his Ph.D from Macquarie University in Sydney while working in marine biology for the Australian Museum. He became a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Oxford’s Department of Zoology in 1999, and is an Ernest Cook Research Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, an EP Abraham Senior Research Fellow of Green College, Oxford, and a Research Associate of the Australian Museum and University of Sydney. Recently he has been appointed as Research Leader at the Natural History Museum, London. He has published numerous scientific papers on topics as diverse as optics in nature, biomimetics and evolution, and is the author of the acclaimed In the Blink of an Eye: How Vision Kick-Started the Big Bang of Evolution, and newly-published Seven Deadly Colours (Simon and Schuster). He lives in Oxfordshire.



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