In the compound eye of Notonecta glauca, the backswimmer, there is a small ventral region in which the rhabdoms differ in structure from those in the other parts of the eye. Here, among other unusual features, there is a special orientation of the microvilli of the central rhabdomeres, i.e., in most of the median eye region that has been examined, the microvilli of the two central rhabdomeres are aligned with one another, at an acute angle to the transverse axis of the body. In the small ventral region, the microvilli of these rhabdomeres are perpendicular to one another, those of one rhabdomere being almost exactly in parallel with the median plane of the animal, and those of the other, almost exactly at right angles to the median plane.
When Notonecta is hanging under the water surface, the field of vision of the ventral part of the eye coincides with the transparent part of the water surface. Within the ventral eye region there is a bandlike zone only four ommatidia wide; the ommatidia here differ from the others in the ventral eye region by the unique orientation of their central rhabdomeres. With this zone the animal views the area ahead of it just above the water surface. When the backswimmer is flying, the ventral part of the eye views a region that begins under the animal and extends forward from the vertical over ca. 35 °. Possible relationships between the special orientation of the microvilli in the ventral eye region and the polarization of the light by the water surface are discussed.
Insect retinaNotonectaCompound eyeMicrovilliEye zones