, Volume 177, Issue 4, pp 439-448

Spectral regions in which aquatic insects see reflected polarized light

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Abstract

For diverse water insects (species of Hydrophilidae, Hadraenidae, Dytiscidae, Haliplidae and aquatic Heteroptera), the attractiveness of an artificial water surface was found to vary when the polarization of the reflected light, the property by which these insects identify water, was abolished in different regions of the spectrum. The sensitivity maxima of their reflection-polarization visual systems (λmax(POL)) thus determined were in various spectral regions, between λ < 360 nm (UV) and λ ca. 550 nm (yellow-green). Species with λmax(POL) at the short-wavelength end of the spectrum would be able to identify bodies of water by polarization regardless of whether the subsurface reflection was bright or dark; nevertheless, this group includes forms that avoid water with a bright subsurface because of the intensity of the reflected light. Species with λmax(POL) in the long-wavelength region fail to use certain bodies of water with a bright subsurface as habitats because the light they reflect at the longer wavelengths is insufficiently polarized. That the POL system of a species has a large λmax could affect habitat choice; on the other hand, it could also be that systems operating in the long-wavelength region were produced in the course of adaptation to the light conditions in or above the habitat.