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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2017 Jan;203(1):23-33. doi: 10.1007/s00359-016-1131-y. Epub 2016 Nov 21.

Photoreceptor spectral tuning by colorful, multilayered facet lenses in long-legged fly eyes (Dolichopodidae).

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Computational Physics, Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, NL9747AG, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Večna pot 111, 1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Laboratory of Neuroethology, Sokendai-Hayama, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Hayama, 240-0193, Japan.
Air Force Research Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, FL, 32542-6810, USA.


The facet lenses of the compound eyes of long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae) feature a striking, interlaced coloration pattern, existing of alternating rows of green-yellow and orange-red reflecting facets, due to dielectric multilayers located distally in the facet lenses (Bernard and Miller. Invest Ophthalmol 7:416-434 (1968). We investigated this phenomenon in the dolichopodid Dolichopus nitidus by applying microspectrophotometry, electron microscopy and optical modeling. The measured narrow-band reflectance spectra, peaking at ~540 and ~590 nm with bandwidth ~105 nm, are well explained by a refractive index oscillating sinusoidally in six periods around a mean value of about 1.44 with amplitude 0.6. The facet lens reflectance spectra are associated with a spectrally restricted, reduced transmittance, which causes modified spectral sensitivities of the underlying photoreceptors. Based on the modeling and electroretinography of the dolichopodid Condylostylus japonicus we conjecture that the green and orange facets narrow the spectral bandwidths of blue and green central photoreceptors, respectively, thus possibly improving color and/or polarization vision.


Iridescence; Photoreceptors; Spectral filters; Spectral sensitivity; Visual pigments

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