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The remarkable visual capacities of nocturnal insects : Vision at the limits with small eyes and tiny brains

Warrant, Eric J. LU (2017) In Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences 372(1717).
Abstract

Nocturnal insects have evolved remarkable visual capacities, despite small eyes and tiny brains. They can see colour, control flight and land, react to faint movements in their environment, navigate using dim celestial cues and find their way home after a long and tortuous foraging trip using learned visual landmarks. These impressive visual abilities occur at light levels when only a trickle of photons are being absorbed by each photoreceptor, begging the question of how the visual system nonetheless generates the reliable signals needed to steer behaviour. In this review, I attempt to provide an answer to this question. Part of the answer lies in their compound eyes, which maximize light capture. Part lies in the slow responses and... (More)

Nocturnal insects have evolved remarkable visual capacities, despite small eyes and tiny brains. They can see colour, control flight and land, react to faint movements in their environment, navigate using dim celestial cues and find their way home after a long and tortuous foraging trip using learned visual landmarks. These impressive visual abilities occur at light levels when only a trickle of photons are being absorbed by each photoreceptor, begging the question of how the visual system nonetheless generates the reliable signals needed to steer behaviour. In this review, I attempt to provide an answer to this question. Part of the answer lies in their compound eyes, which maximize light capture. Part lies in the slow responses and high gains of their photoreceptors, which improve the reliability of visual signals. And a very large part lies in the spatial and temporal summation of these signals in the optic lobe, a strategy that substantially enhances contrast sensitivity in dim light and allows nocturnal insects to see a brighter world, albeit a slower and coarser one. What is abundantly clear, however, is that during their evolution insects have overcome several serious potential visual limitations, endowing them with truly extraordinary night vision.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Compound eye, Insect, Navigation, Nocturnal vision, Spatial summation, Temporal summation
in
Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
volume
372
issue
1717
publisher
Royal Society
external identifiers
  • scopus:85012281763
  • wos:000394258900002
ISSN
0962-8436
DOI
10.1098/rstb.2016.0063
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
a45b6de4-14ee-4a63-9bea-919c54d9b071
date added to LUP
2017-02-22 11:42:07
date last changed
2018-07-15 04:38:24
@article{a45b6de4-14ee-4a63-9bea-919c54d9b071,
  abstract     = {<p>Nocturnal insects have evolved remarkable visual capacities, despite small eyes and tiny brains. They can see colour, control flight and land, react to faint movements in their environment, navigate using dim celestial cues and find their way home after a long and tortuous foraging trip using learned visual landmarks. These impressive visual abilities occur at light levels when only a trickle of photons are being absorbed by each photoreceptor, begging the question of how the visual system nonetheless generates the reliable signals needed to steer behaviour. In this review, I attempt to provide an answer to this question. Part of the answer lies in their compound eyes, which maximize light capture. Part lies in the slow responses and high gains of their photoreceptors, which improve the reliability of visual signals. And a very large part lies in the spatial and temporal summation of these signals in the optic lobe, a strategy that substantially enhances contrast sensitivity in dim light and allows nocturnal insects to see a brighter world, albeit a slower and coarser one. What is abundantly clear, however, is that during their evolution insects have overcome several serious potential visual limitations, endowing them with truly extraordinary night vision.</p>},
  articleno    = {20160063},
  author       = {Warrant, Eric J.},
  issn         = {0962-8436},
  keyword      = {Compound eye,Insect,Navigation,Nocturnal vision,Spatial summation,Temporal summation},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {04},
  number       = {1717},
  publisher    = {Royal Society},
  series       = {Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences},
  title        = {The remarkable visual capacities of nocturnal insects : Vision at the limits with small eyes and tiny brains},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0063},
  volume       = {372},
  year         = {2017},
}