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Did the eye or ear evolve first? © Getty Images

Which evolved first: eyes or ears?

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It's up in the air whether early lifeforms developed seeing or hearing first.

Asked by: Corben Jubian, Sydney, Australia


Eyes, by at least 40 million years. The only invertebrates with ears are land arthropods and they didn’t emerge until about 480 million years ago. Older invertebrates had antennae that would have been able to sense vibrations in the water, but that’s not quite the same thing as hearing. Trilobites already had complex compound eyes 521 million years ago, and simple eyespots without a lens probably date back to 570 million years ago, when the first multicellular animals appeared.


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Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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