, Volume 206, Issue 2, pp 136-146

The early stages of ommatidial development in the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum (Coleoptera; Tenebrionidae)

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 Using electron microscopy, the first stages of ommatidial development in the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum were analysed in relation to the cellular architecture of the adult compound eye and were compared to the corresponding patterning process in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The ommatidia of the slightly horse-shoe shaped beetle compound eye contain six peripheral and two central retinula cells. The rhabdomere of the posteriorly located central photoreceptor cell is restricted to the distal half of the rhabdom whilst that of the anterior one is restricted to its proximal half. The development of the compound eye takes place in an external eye imaginal disc. Most stages of ommatidial development, as known from Drosophila, i.e. arc-like cell groups, five-cell clusters, immature eight-cell clusters and symmetrical eight-cell clusters, are very precisely conserved between the two species. Two major differences exist: 1. In Tribolium, the cone cell precursor cells synchronously join to the immature eight-cell cluster. As a consequence, the symmetrical eight-cell cluster immediately transforms into a four-cone-cell cluster. 2. The maturing ommatidia do not undergo rotation in Tribolium. Overall, no morphological indiation for an equator in the adult Tribolium compound eye could be found. Considering the strong evolutionary conservation of early ommatidial development, homology of photoreceptor cells of distantly related insects is proposed to be inferred from their ontogenetic origin.