Here we report the first detailed reconstruction of the eye and visual system of a Paleozoic ostracod, namely the dimorphic primitiopsid (Palaeocopa) Primitiopsis planifronsJones, 1887. Evidence from the cuticular lens morphology and its position on the valve suggests that P. planifrons had a naupliar eye, which is the most common optical system in crustaceans. The characters of the eye, such as the separated cuticular lens on each valve and the strongly calcified nature of the lens and its diameter, are concordant with that of some Recent podocopid ostracods in which a divided type of naupliar eye is present. Ray tracing of the reconstructed cuticular lens of the primitiopsid species demonstrates strong spherical aberration and a very long focal length (as in the eye of podocopids), which implies the presence of a spherical mirror (tapetum) below the lens. Study of the ontogenetic change of the valve thickness aids the suggestion that P. planifrons was nektobenthic. The size of its cuticular lens in relation to that of living podocopid ostracods, and the water depth at which these Recent forms occur, indicates that P. planifrons may have lived in a relatively shallow, well lit environment such as the deep subtidal zone. These interpretations are consistent with supposed paleoenvironmental conditions derived from geological evidence. Thus, analysis of the nature and relative size of the eye gives an independent test to help identify paleoenvironmental parameters of long extinct ostracods.

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