Home > ID theory, Intelligent Design vs Darwinian Evolution Theory > Hi-Tech Eye Design in a Lowly Mollusk

Hi-Tech Eye Design in a Lowly Mollusk

by Brian Thomas, M.S.
5/6/2011

Human eyes are well-designed to see objects using light transmitted through air, but not through water, because light travels at a different speed through the two media. However, intertidal-dwelling marine mollusks called chitons can see equally well in both environments. How did they acquire this unusual ability?

Chitons scour intertidal rocks for algae meals. Eight integrated shell-plates cover their backs, and a muscular foot allows them to cling with surprising strength to the rocks they traverse. A recent study explored their unique dual-mode eye design. How do they see in both air and water without switching out eye lenses, and is this an “adaptation,” as suggested in a summary in ScienceNOW?1

Researchers publishing in Current Biology tested chiton eye lenses and discovered they were the first ever known to be made of the hard mineral aragonite.2 Chiton shells are also made primarily of aragonite, but the use of this material in an eye lens turns out to be an elegant solution to the problem of forming quality images in either air or water.

“The mineral bends the incoming rays in two directions and creates a double image,” according to ScienceNOW.1 The researchers suspect that the chiton capitalizes on the two angles, or “refractive indices,” of transmitted light to form an image in either environment. The study authors wrote, “We propose that one of the two refractive indices of the birefringent chiton lens places a focused image on the retina in air, whereas the other does so in water.”2 The use of aragonite for a lens material could potentially be copied by optical engineers for many applications.

“The adaptation makes sense, as chitons live in intertidal zones and spend time above and below the water line,” ScienceNOW reported.1 But who is to say that the chiton eye was the result of random “adaptation” and not intentional design?

Chiton eye specifications include the thickness, size, and placement of aragonite lenses on the chiton’s shell—coordinated with internal light-detecting soft tissues like membranes and specified proteins. All these are needed just to detect a raw light signal. Therefore, these eyes have such incredibly ingenious engineering that the burden of proof lies with the one who insists that chiton eye specifications are natural “adaptations” rather than intelligently specified designs. – More here

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