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Arthropod Struct Dev. 2002 Jun;30(4):271-80.

Ultrastructure and orientation of ommatidia in the dorsal rim area of the locust compound eye.

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Fachbereich Biologie, Tierphysiologie, Universit├Ąt Marburg, D-35032 Marburg, Germany.


In many insect species, a dorsal rim area (DRA) in the compound eye is adapted to analyze the sky polarization pattern for compass orientation. In the desert locust Schistocerca gregaria, these specializations are particularly striking. The DRA of the locust consists of about 400 ommatidia. The facets have an irregular shape, and pore canals are often present in the corneae. Screening pigment is missing in the region of the dioptric apparatus suggesting large receptive fields. The rhabdoms are shorter, but about four times larger in cross-section than the rhabdoms of ordinary ommatida. Eight retinula cells contribute to the rhabdom. The microvilli of retinula cell 7 and of cells 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 are highly aligned throughout the rhabdom and form two blocks of orthogonal orientation. The microvilli in the minute rhabdomeres of retinula cells 3 and 4, in contrast, show no particular alignment. As in other insect species, microvillar orientations are arranged in a fan-like pattern across the DRA. Photoreceptor axons project to distinct areas in the dorsal lamina and medulla. The morphological specializations in the DRA of the locust eye most likely maximize the polarization sensitivity and suggest that the locust uses this eye region for analysis of the sky polarization pattern.


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