Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 167, Issue 6, pp 737–743 | Cite as

A behavioural study of polarization vision in the fly, Musca domestica

  • Andreas von Philipsborn
  • Thomas Labhart



Tethered flies (Musca domestica) walking on an air-suspended ball show a spontaneous response to the e-vector of polarized light presented from above, i.e. a slowly rotating e-vector induces periodic changes in the flies' turning tendency. Suitable control experiments exclude the possibility that the response is elicited by intensity gradients in the stimulus (Figs. 1 and 2).


Presence of the e-vector response in both white and UV light and its complete absence in yellow light equally support the concept that the specialized dorsal rim area of the compound eye with its highly polarization sensitive UV receptors R7marg and R8marg mediates polarization vision in flies (Fig. 3).


E-vector orientations inducing no turning response additional to the fly's inherent turning tendency are either parallel (avoided e-vector) or perpendicular (preferred e-vector) to the animal's body axis (Figs. 1 and 4).


Considering the fanlike arrangement of the microvillar orientations of R7marg and R8marg in the dorsal rim area of the eye of Calliphora and Musca, a stabilizing function of polarization vision in controlling the flight course is suggested and discussed in the context of results from other behavioural studies.

Key words

Polarization vision Flies Behaviour 



dorsal rim area


polarization sensitivity


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas von Philipsborn
    • 1
  • Thomas Labhart
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoologisches Institut der UniversitätZürichSwitzerland

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