, Volume 189, Issue 8, pp 617-630

The unusual visual system of the Strepsiptera: external eye and neuropils

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Abstract

Adult males of the insect order Strepsiptera are characterized by an unusual visual system that may use design principles from compound as well as simple eyes. The lenses of this eye are unusually large and focus images onto extended retinae. The light-gathering ability of the lens is sufficient to resolve multiple points of an image in each optical unit. We regard each unit as an independent image-forming eye that contributes an inverted partial image. Each partial image is re-inverted by optic chiasmata between the retinae and the lamina, where the complete image could be assembled from the neighboring units. The lamina, medulla and lobula are present, but their organization into cartridges is not clearly discernable. Fluorescent fills, whole-tissue stains, and synaptotagmin immunohistochemistry show that the optic neuropils nevertheless are densely packed, and that several parallel channels within the medulla underlie each of the lenses. The size and shape of the rhabdoms, as well as a relatively slow flicker-fusion frequency could suggest that these eyes evolved through a nocturnal life stage.