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J Insect Physiol. 2011 Nov;57(11):1545-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2011.08.005. Epub 2011 Aug 11.

Differential control of light-dark adaptation in the ocelli and compound eyes of Triatoma infestans.

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Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte, UMR CNRS 6035-Université François Rabelais, Tours, France.


The adaptation to light of compound eyes in insects has been extensively documented and their adaptive role is well understood. Much less attention has been paid, however, to the control of ocelli sensitivity, a study which could help us to understand the functional role of these simple eyes. We analyzed the dynamic changes in the distribution of screening pigments which occur in the ocelli of the haematophagous bug, Triatoma infestans, when the insects are subjected either to light/dark cycles (LD), to constant darkness (DD) or constant light (LL). We then compared these changes with those occurring in the compound eyes of the same individuals and found that, while compound eyes are subject to the control of an endogenous circadian clock, the adaptation of the ocelli is entirely dependent on environmental illumination. In addition, we have observed that environmental temperature is not involved in the control of screening pigments in either ocelli or compound eyes as a direct stimulus, nor as a Zeitgeber. The existence of a differential control in the components of the dual visual system represents an adaptive advantage in the adjustment of visual sensitivity in insects exposed to quick changes in lighting conditions in their natural habitat. We discuss the implications of our findings with regards to the biology of triatomines and with respect to the general understanding the functional role of insect ocelli.

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