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J Exp Biol. 2013 Sep 15;216(Pt 18):3414-21. doi: 10.1242/jeb.089169. Epub 2013 May 16.

Rough eyes of the Northeast-Asian wood white, Leptidea amurensis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neuroethology, Sokendai The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Shonan Village, Hayama, Kanagawa 240-0193, Japan.


The northeast-Asian wood white, Leptidea amurensis (Lepidoptera, Pieridae), belongs to the Dismorphiinae, a subfamily of the family Pieridae. We studied the structure of the compound eye in this species through a combination of anatomy, molecular biology and intracellular electrophysiology, with a particular focus on the evolution of butterfly eyes. We found that their eyes consist of three types of ommatidia, with a basic set of one short-, one middle- and one long-wavelength-absorbing visual pigment. The spectral sensitivities of the photoreceptors are rather simple, and peak in the ultraviolet, blue and green wavelength regions. The ommatidia have neither perirhabdomal nor fluorescent pigments, which modulate photoreceptor spectral sensitivities in a number of other butterfly species. These features are primitive, but the eyes of Leptidea exhibit another unique feature: the rough appearance of the ventral two-thirds of the eye. The roughness is due to the irregular distribution of facets of two distinct sizes. As this phenomenon exists only in males, it may represent a newly evolved sex-related feature.


color vision; insect; photoreceptor; spectral sensitivity; visual pigment

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