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Nocturnal vision and landmark orientation in a tropical halictid bee

Warrant, Eric LU ; Kelber, Almut LU ; Gislén, Anna LU ; Greiner, Birgit LU ; Ribi, W and Wcislo, WT (2004) In Current Biology 14(15). p.1309-1318
Abstract
Background: Some bees and wasps have evolved nocturnal behavior, presumably to exploit night-flowering plants or avoid predators. Like their day-active relatives, they have apposition compound eyes, a design usually found in diurnal insects. The insensitive optics of apposition eyes are not well suited for nocturnal vision. How well then do nocturnal bees and wasps see? What optical and neural adaptations have they evolved for nocturnal vision? Results: We studied female tropical nocturnal sweat bees (Megalopta genalis) and discovered that they are able to learn landmarks around their nest entrance prior to nocturnal foraging trips and to use them to locate the nest upon return. The morphology and optics of the eye and the physiological... (More)
Background: Some bees and wasps have evolved nocturnal behavior, presumably to exploit night-flowering plants or avoid predators. Like their day-active relatives, they have apposition compound eyes, a design usually found in diurnal insects. The insensitive optics of apposition eyes are not well suited for nocturnal vision. How well then do nocturnal bees and wasps see? What optical and neural adaptations have they evolved for nocturnal vision? Results: We studied female tropical nocturnal sweat bees (Megalopta genalis) and discovered that they are able to learn landmarks around their nest entrance prior to nocturnal foraging trips and to use them to locate the nest upon return. The morphology and optics of the eye and the physiological properties of the photoreceptors have evolved to give Megalopta's eyes almost 30 times greater sensitivity to light than the eyes of diurnal worker honeybees, but this alone does not explain their nocturnal visual behavior. This implies that sensitivity is improved by a strategy of photon summation in time and in space, the latter of which requires the presence of specialized cells that laterally connect ommatidia into groups. First-order interneurons, with significantly wider lateral branching than those found in diurnal bees, have been identified in the first optic ganglion (the lamina ganglionaris) of Megalopta's optic lobe. We believe that these cells have the potential to mediate spatial summation. Conclusions: Despite the scarcity of photons, Megalopta is able to visually orient to landmarks at night in a dark forest understory, an ability permitted by unusually sensitive apposition eyes and neural photon summation. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Current Biology
volume
14
issue
15
pages
1309 - 1318
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • pmid:15296747
  • wos:000223306200022
  • scopus:4143088315
ISSN
1879-0445
DOI
10.1016/j.cub.2004.07.057
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
ccda2b04-64a9-447b-9c05-c24d6c1492d2 (old id 270910)
date added to LUP
2007-11-05 10:50:40
date last changed
2017-11-05 03:45:24
@article{ccda2b04-64a9-447b-9c05-c24d6c1492d2,
  abstract     = {Background: Some bees and wasps have evolved nocturnal behavior, presumably to exploit night-flowering plants or avoid predators. Like their day-active relatives, they have apposition compound eyes, a design usually found in diurnal insects. The insensitive optics of apposition eyes are not well suited for nocturnal vision. How well then do nocturnal bees and wasps see? What optical and neural adaptations have they evolved for nocturnal vision? Results: We studied female tropical nocturnal sweat bees (Megalopta genalis) and discovered that they are able to learn landmarks around their nest entrance prior to nocturnal foraging trips and to use them to locate the nest upon return. The morphology and optics of the eye and the physiological properties of the photoreceptors have evolved to give Megalopta's eyes almost 30 times greater sensitivity to light than the eyes of diurnal worker honeybees, but this alone does not explain their nocturnal visual behavior. This implies that sensitivity is improved by a strategy of photon summation in time and in space, the latter of which requires the presence of specialized cells that laterally connect ommatidia into groups. First-order interneurons, with significantly wider lateral branching than those found in diurnal bees, have been identified in the first optic ganglion (the lamina ganglionaris) of Megalopta's optic lobe. We believe that these cells have the potential to mediate spatial summation. Conclusions: Despite the scarcity of photons, Megalopta is able to visually orient to landmarks at night in a dark forest understory, an ability permitted by unusually sensitive apposition eyes and neural photon summation.},
  author       = {Warrant, Eric and Kelber, Almut and Gislén, Anna and Greiner, Birgit and Ribi, W and Wcislo, WT},
  issn         = {1879-0445},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {15},
  pages        = {1309--1318},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {Nocturnal vision and landmark orientation in a tropical halictid bee},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2004.07.057},
  volume       = {14},
  year         = {2004},
}