Journal of comparative physiology

, Volume 151, Issue 3, pp 295–310 | Cite as

The identification of spectral receptor types in the retina and lamina of the dragonflySympetrum rubicundulum

  • I. A. Meinertzhagen
  • R. Menzel
  • G. Kahle


Photoreceptors and monopolar cells in the ventral eye ofSympetrum rubicundulum have been recorded from intracellularly and stained with Lucifer yellow. Units with four types of spectral sensitivity were found having λmax at 340, 410, 490–540 and 620 nm. On the basis of a significant difference in half bandwidth ofS(λ), the green receptors are separable into two subgroups with λmax at 490 and 540 nm. The fluorescence marking reveals that R5/8 and R2/3 are the green receptors; R1/4 is either a UV or an orange cell. Discrimination between the members of the three matched pairs R2 & 3, R5 & 8, and R1 & 4 has not been possible. R7 is the violet receptor, and R6 is probably an additional green receptor; these are the receptors with long visual fibres. No receptors in the ventral eye besides the orange (620 nm) are sensitive to polarized light, whereas UV receptors in the dorsal eye are highly sensitive to polarized light. The polarized light sensitivity of the orange receptors is interpreted as an adaptation to increase the contrast between a conspecific animal and shorter wavelength light with a predominantly horizontal E-vector, such as is provided by reflections on the water's surface.

Cell identification is complicated by the fact that in most cases more than one cell is dye-marked. We present evidence in favour of dye-coupling being functional and against it being any simple artifact. Most importantly, the cellular pattern of dye-coupling is related to the spectral sensitivity of the recorded unit.

Recordings from monopolar cells are interpretable in the light of the results of both receptor markings and the anatomical pattern of their synaptic connectivities. The significance of a previously described asymmetry of the synaptic connections of the lamina terminals from R1 and R4 is now most easily understood as the counterpart of a duality in the spectral properties of this receptor pair; whether UV- or orange-sensitive types coexist within a single ommatidium or are segregated between different ommatidia is, however, not known.


Spectral Sensitivity Lucifer Yellow Synaptic Connectivity Receptor Pair Short Wavelength Light 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



spectral sensitivity


wavelength of maximum sensitivity


maximum response size


polarization sensitivity






Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armett-Kibel C, Meinertzhagen IA (1983) Structural organization of the ommatidium in the ventral compound eye of the dragonflySympetrum. J Comp Physiol 151:285–294Google Scholar
  2. Armett-Kibel C, Meinertzhagen IA, Dowling JE (1977) Cellular and synaptic organization in the lamina of the dragon-flySympetrum rubicundulum. Proc R Soc Lond [Biol] 196:385–413Google Scholar
  3. Autrum H, Kolb G (1968) Spektrale Empfindlichkeit einzelner Sehzellen der Aeschniden. Z Vergl Physiol 60:450–477Google Scholar
  4. Boschek CB (1971) On the fine structure of the peripheral retina and lamina ganglionaris of the fly,Musca domestica. Z Zellforsch Mikrosk Anat 118:369–409Google Scholar
  5. Cummins D, Goldsmith TH (1981) Cellular identification of the violet receptor in the crayfish eye. J Comp Physiol 142:199–202Google Scholar
  6. Ebrey TG, Honig B (1977) New wavelength dependent visual pigment nomograms. Vision Res 17:147–151Google Scholar
  7. Eguchi E (1971) Fine structure and spectral sensitivities of retinular cells in the dorsal sector of compound eyes in the dragonflyAeschna. Z Vergl Physiol 71:201–218Google Scholar
  8. Hardie RC (1979) Electrophysiological analysis of fly retina. I. Comparative properties of Rl-6 and R7 and 8. J Comp Physiol 129:19–33Google Scholar
  9. Hardie RC, Franceschini N, Mclntyre PD (1979) Electrophysiological analysis of fly retina. II. Spectral and polarisation sensitivity in R7 and R8. J Comp Physiol 133:23–39Google Scholar
  10. Horridge GA (1969) Unit studies on the retina of dragonflies. Z Vergl Physiol 62:1–37Google Scholar
  11. Krogh A, Weis-Fogh T (1951) The respiratory exchange of the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) before, during and after flight. J Exp Biol 28:344–357Google Scholar
  12. Laughlin SB (1973) Neural integration in the first optic neuropile of dragonflies. I. Signal amplification in dark-adapted second-order neurons. J Comp Physiol 84:335–355Google Scholar
  13. Laughlin SB (1974) Neural integration in the first optic neuropile of dragonflies. II. Receptor signal interactions in the lamina. J Comp Physiol 92:357–375Google Scholar
  14. Laughlin SB (1976a) Neural integration in the first optic neuropile of dragonflies. IV. Interneuron spectral sensitivity and contrast coding. J Comp Physiol 112:199–211Google Scholar
  15. Laughlin SB (1976b) The sensitivities of dragonfly photoreceptors and the voltage gain of transduction. J Comp Physiol 111:221–247Google Scholar
  16. Laughlin SB (1981) Neural principles in the visual system. In: Autrum H (ed) Comparative physiology and evolution of vision in invertebrates. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York (Handbook of sensory physiology, vol VII/6B, pp 133–280)Google Scholar
  17. Laughlin SB, Hardie RC (1978) Common strategies for light adaptation in the peripheral visual systems of fly and dragonfly. J Comp Physiol 128:319–340Google Scholar
  18. Meinertzhagen IA, Armett-Kibel C (1982) The lamina monopolar cells in the optic lobe of the dragonflySympetrum. Philos Trans R Soc Lond [Biol] 297:27–49Google Scholar
  19. Meinertzhagen IA, Menzel R, Kahle G (1981) The identification by lucifer injection of spectral inputs to the lamina cartridge of the dragonfly compound eye. Biol Bull 161:349Google Scholar
  20. Menzel R (1974) Spectral sensitivity of monopolar cells in the bee lamina. J Comp Physiol 93:337–346Google Scholar
  21. Menzel R (1979) Spectral sensitivity and colour vision in invertebrates. In: Autrum H (ed) Comparative physiology and evolution of vision in invertebrates. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York (Handbook of sensory physiology, vol VII/ 6A, pp 503–580)Google Scholar
  22. Menzel R, Blakers M (1975) Functional organisation of an insect ommatidium with fused rhabdome. Cytobiol 11:279–298Google Scholar
  23. Needham JG, Westfall MJ (1954) A manual of the dragonflies of North America (Anisoptera). University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  24. Ribi WA (1975) The neurons of the first optic ganglion of the bee (Apis mellifera). Adv Anat Embryol Cell Biol 50:1–43Google Scholar
  25. Ribi WA (1981) The first optic ganglion of the bee IV. Synaptic fine structure and connectivity patterns of receptor cell axons and first order interneurones. Cell Tissue Res 215:443–464Google Scholar
  26. Shaw SR (1975) Retinal resistance barriers and electrical lateral inhibition. Nature 255:480–483Google Scholar
  27. Shaw SR (1981) Anatomy and physiology of identified non-spiking cells in the photoreceptor-lamina complex of the compound eye of insects, especially Diptera. In: Roberts A, Bush BMH (eds) Neurones without impulses. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (Soc Exp Biol Seminar Series 6:61–116)Google Scholar
  28. Spurr AR (1969) A low-viscosity epoxy resin embedding medium for electron microscopy. J Ultrastruct Res 26:31–43Google Scholar
  29. Stewart WW (1978) Functional connections between cells as revealed by dye-coupling with a highly fluorescent naphthalimide tracer. Cell 14:741–759Google Scholar
  30. Stewart WW (1981) Lucifer dyes — highly fluorescent dyes for biological tracing. Nature 292:17–21Google Scholar
  31. Strausfeld N, Campos-Ortega JA (1977) Vision in insects: pathways possibly underlying neural adaptation and lateral inhibition. Science 195:894–897Google Scholar
  32. Zettler F, Autrum H (1975) Chromatic properties of lateral inhibition in the eye of a fly. J Comp Physiol 97:181–188Google Scholar
  33. Zimmermann K (1914) Über die Facettenaugen der Libelluliden, Phasmiden und Mantiden. Zool Jahrb Abt Anat Ontog Tiere 37:1–36Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. A. Meinertzhagen
    • 2
    • 1
  • R. Menzel
    • 3
    • 1
  • G. Kahle
    • 3
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Life Sciences CentreDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Institut für Tierphysiologie, Fachbereich BiologieFreie Universität BerlinBerlin 41

Personalised recommendations