Evolution of the vertebrate eye: opsins, photoreceptors, retina and eye cup

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2007 Dec;8(12):960-76. doi: 10.1038/nrn2283.


Charles Darwin appreciated the conceptual difficulty in accepting that an organ as wonderful as the vertebrate eye could have evolved through natural selection. He reasoned that if appropriate gradations could be found that were useful to the animal and were inherited, then the apparent difficulty would be overcome. Here, we review a wide range of findings that capture glimpses of the gradations that appear to have occurred during eye evolution, and provide a scenario for the unseen steps that have led to the emergence of the vertebrate eye.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology
  • Nerve Net / chemistry
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / chemistry
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / cytology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / physiology*
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • Retina / chemistry
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Rod Opsins / chemistry
  • Rod Opsins / physiology*


  • Rod Opsins