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Central neural coding of sky polarization in insects

Uwe Homberg, Stanley Heinze, Keram Pfeiffer, Michiyo Kinoshita and Basil el Jundi
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences
Vol. 366, No. 1565, New directions in biological research on polarized light (12 March 2011), pp. 680-687
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41061770
Page Count: 8
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Central neural coding of sky polarization in insects
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Abstract

Many animals rely on a sun compass for spatial orientation and long-range navigation. In addition to the Sun, insects also exploit the polarization pattern and chromatic gradient of the sky for estimating navigational directions. Analysis of polarization-vision pathways in locusts and crickets has shed first light on brain areas involved in sky compass orientation. Detection of sky polarization relies on specialized photoreceptor cells in a small dorsal rim area of the compound eye. Brain areas involved in polarization processing include parts of the lamina, medulla and lobula of the optic lobe and, in the central brain, the anterior optic tubercle, the lateral accessory lobe and the central complex. In the optic lobe, polarization sensitivity and contrast are enhanced through convergence and opponency. In the anterior optic tubercle, polarized-light signals are integrated with information on the chromatic contrast of the sky. Tubercle neurons combine responses to the UV/green contrast and e-vector orientation of the sky and compensate for diurnal changes of the celestial polarization pattern associated with changes in solar elevation. In the central complex, a topographic representation of e-vector tunings underlies the columnar organization and suggests that this brain area serves as an internal compass coding for spatial directions.

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