Adaptations for nocturnal vision in insect apposition eyes.

Research paper by Birgit B Greiner

Indexed on: 25 Jul '06Published on: 25 Jul '06Published in: International review of cytology


Due to our own preference for bright light, we tend to forget that many insects are active in very dim light. Nocturnal insects possess in general superposition compound eyes. This eye design is truly optimized for dim light as photons can be gathered through large apertures comprised of hundreds of lenses. In apposition eyes, on the other hand, the aperture consists of a single lens resulting in a poor photon catch and unreliable vision in dim light. Apposition eyes are therefore typically found in day-active insects. Some nocturnal insects have nevertheless managed the transition to a strictly nocturnal lifestyle while retaining their highly unsuitable apposition eye design. Large lenses and wide photoreceptors enhance the sensitivity of nocturnal apposition eyes. However, as the gain of these optical adaptations is limited and not sufficient for vision in dim light, additional neural adaptations in the form of spatial and temporal summation are necessary.