, Volume 272, Issue 1, pp 17-22

Morphological specializations of dorsal rim ommatidia in the compound eye of dragonflies and damselfies (Odonata)

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We have examined the fine structure of dorsal rim ommatidia in the compound eye of the three odonate species Sympetrum striolatum, Aeshna cyanea and Ischnura elegans. These ommatidia exhibit several specializations: (1) the rhabdoms are very short, (2) there is no rhabdomeric twist, and (3) the rhabdoms contain only two, orthogonally-arranged microvillar orientations. The dorsal rim ommatidia of several other insect species are known to be anatomically specialized in a similar way and to be responsible for polarization vision. We suggest that the dorsal rim area of the odonate compound eye plays a similar role in polarization vision. Since the Odonata are a primitive group of insects, the use of polarized skylight for navigation may have developed early in insect phylogeny.