Nocturnal vision: bees in the dark

Land, Michael F (2004) Nocturnal vision: bees in the dark. Current Biology, 14 (15). R615-R616. ISSN 0960-9822

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Some eyes work better in the dark than others. The apposition type of compound eye that bees and other diurnal insects possess is usually of little use after nightfall. Nevertheless some tropical sweat bees have pushed the limits of this unfavourable design so far that they can navigate using landmarks that are too dim for humans to make out.

The problem with trying to see in near darkness is that very few photons reach the rhodopsin molecules in the photoreceptors. As photon arrivals are unpredictable, low numbers mean unreliable statistics – just as they do in any other task. In vision, this unreliability takes the form of progressive loss of sensitivity to contrast in the image, which in turn leads to loss of spatial resolution. All this is familiar from our own experience.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Biology and Environmental Science
Depositing User: Michael Land
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:45
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2012 12:34
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