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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2002 Dec;12(6):707-14.

Neural mechanisms in insect navigation: polarization compass and odometer.

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Zoologisches Institut der Universit├Ąt, Winterthurerstr. 190, CH-8057 Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Insect navigation relies on path integration, a procedure by which information about compass bearings pursued and distances travelled are combined to calculate position. Three neural levels of the polarization compass, which uses the polarization of skylight as a reference, have been analyzed in orthopteran insects. A group of dorsally directed, highly specialized ommatidia serve as polarization sensors. Polarization-opponent neurons in the optic lobe condition the polarization signal by removing unreliable and irrelevant components of the celestial stimulus. Neurons found in the central complex of the brain possibly represent elements of the compass output. The odometer for measuring travelling distances in honeybees relies on optic flow experienced during flight, whereas desert ants most probably use proprioreceptive cues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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