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Complex eyes can distinguish shapes and colours. The visual fields of many organisms, especially predators, involve large areas of binocular vision to improve depth perception. In other organisms, eyes are located so as to maximise the field of view, such as in rabbits and horses, which have monocular vision. The first proto-eyes evolved among animals 600 million years ago about the time of the Cambrian explosion. The last common ancestor of animals possessed the biochemical toolkit necessary for vision, and more advanced eyes have evolved in 96% of animal species. Here is a brief video that explains how our human eyes work.
The simplest "eyes", such as those in microorganisms, do nothing but detect whether the surroundings are light or dark, which is sufficient for the entrainment of circadian rhythms. From more complex eyes, retinal photosensitive ganglion cells send signals along the retinohypothalamic tract to the suprachiasmatic nuclei to effect circadian adjustment and to the pretectal area to control the pupillary light reflex.