A long standing question has been how variation and selection can produce an imaging eye. We have previously approached this question by theoretical modelling (Nilsson and Pelger, 1994: A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proc R Soc Lond B 256: 53-58) which demonstrate that even with rather weak selection, the structures of a focused camera type eye can evolve in less than half a million generations.
We now continue this line of research by computer simulations of eye evolution based on a realistic genetic network. The questions of interest do not primarily concern eyes or vision, but the well understood functional requirements of eyes make them ideal subjects for evolutionary modelling. The fundamental questions we pursue are:
1. What properties of the genetic network are required to allow gradual
evolution of complex structures?
2. What is required for maximum evolvability?
3. How repeatable or stochastic is evolution?