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Three eyes of Pecten Maximus. Photo: Dan-Eric Nilsson / Lund University

Little known fact: Scallops have eyes, and they're made out of crystals. In a new paper, scientists describe the sophisticated structure of the bivalves mirrored eyes, which could offer inspiration for engineering artificial light-collecting materials.We only eat a small part of a scallop so we rarely see their shells, let alone their eyes. But they have up to a hundred laid out like a necklace of tiny, iridescent, blue-black pearls nestled in the tentacles that line their shell.How they work: Those eyes are relatively unique in the animal kingdom. In the same way a radio telescope uses a large, reflective dish to gather light and centers it on a sensor, scallop eyes have a mirror that focuses light on their retina."It's a small, compact visual system. It's hard to form an image in water with such a small eye," says study author Benjamin Palmer of the Weizmann Institute, who reported in the journal Science that the reflective film on scallops' eyes is formed from stacks of semi-rectangular crystals of guanine, one of the four chemicals that make up DNA."It's amazing to look at the control these animals exert over the crystallization process," Palmer tells Axios.Normally, guanine doesn't like to form square crystals. Attempts to build such crystals through traditional chemical means are clumsy, but the scallops accomplish it easily. By studying them, and other similar creatures, scientists might learn better ways to create efficient, light-collecting molecules like these in the lab for materials science applications.

Yes, but: Although their eyes are elegant, scallops are not. If they see a predator they swim rapidly away like underwater Pac-Men.

Go deeper

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate pulls all-nighter on amendments to COVID relief package

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate continued to work through votes on a marathon of amendments overnight into Saturday morning.

The elusive political power of Mexican Americans

Data: Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Mexican Americans make up the nation's largest Latino group, yet they remain politically outshined by more recently arrived Cuban Americans.

Why it matters: The disparities in political power between Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans reflect the racial, historical, geographical and economic differences within Latino cultures in the U.S.

America's media habits divide along political and racial lines

Black social media users were twice as likely as white users to say they used a hashtag to promote a social or political issue, a Pew survey found. Photo: Wolfram Kastl/picture alliance via Getty Images

Race and identity play into the media platforms people use to advocate their politics, data show. 

Why it matters: People of color and Democrats are more likely to take to social platforms like Twitter to advocate for a cause, and to say that seeing something on social media changed their views. Republicans are increasingly turning to partisan outlets on TV, print and audio.