This bouquet of light sensitive blooms buffered by pigment cells is very similar to the structure seen in the eyes of today's horseshoe crabs (Limulus). "If you have an optical system that works, it can last," says Richard Fortey, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. He hopes the x-ray techniques used in this study will soon be applied to more trilobite species-which may have evolved different visual systems-as well as other types of well-preserved fossils. Modern techniques like synchrotron radiation "produce details you wouldn't have dreamed could be seen a few years ago," he says.
"It's fantastic to see" this new tool being adopted, agrees physicist Uwe Bergmann of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, who has also used x-rays from a synchrotron there to study fossils. "It seems as if these x-ray tomography techniques have brought out really new knowledge … about the early evolution of eyes."