, 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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Abstract

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.