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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Mar 12;366(1565):680-7. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0199.

Central neural coding of sky polarization in insects.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Animal Physiology, University of Marburg, 35032 Marburg, Germany. homberg@staff.uni-marburg.de

Abstract

Many animals rely on a sun compass for spatial orientation and long-range navigation. In addition to the Sun, insects also exploit the polarization pattern and chromatic gradient of the sky for estimating navigational directions. Analysis of polarization-vision pathways in locusts and crickets has shed first light on brain areas involved in sky compass orientation. Detection of sky polarization relies on specialized photoreceptor cells in a small dorsal rim area of the compound eye. Brain areas involved in polarization processing include parts of the lamina, medulla and lobula of the optic lobe and, in the central brain, the anterior optic tubercle, the lateral accessory lobe and the central complex. In the optic lobe, polarization sensitivity and contrast are enhanced through convergence and opponency. In the anterior optic tubercle, polarized-light signals are integrated with information on the chromatic contrast of the sky. Tubercle neurons combine responses to the UV/green contrast and e-vector orientation of the sky and compensate for diurnal changes of the celestial polarization pattern associated with changes in solar elevation. In the central complex, a topographic representation of e-vector tunings underlies the columnar organization and suggests that this brain area serves as an internal compass coding for spatial directions.

PMID:
21282171
PMCID:
PMC3049008
DOI:
10.1098/rstb.2010.0199
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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