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Seeing after dark

Vision and visual processing in nocturnal animals


A large proportion of the world's animal species are nocturnal. Our recent work on night-active bees, hawkmoths and dung beetles has shown that nocturnal animals have excellent vision. Many can see colour, negotiate dimly illuminated obstacles during flight and navigate using learned terrestrial landmarks or the dim pattern of polarised light formed around the moon. Our current work focuses on how this impressive visual performance is achieved optically, in the designs of nocturnal eyes, and neurally, by the cellular circuits responsible for nocturnal visual processing. These studies are integrated with behavioural and theoretical assessments of visual performance. Some of the questions we are currently pursuing include:

1. Do nocturnal photoreceptors have structural and physiological adaptations that allow them to function better in dim light? How do these adaptations affect the amount of information that nocturnal photoreceptors can code, and at what energetic cost? Eric Warrant

2. What is the neural basis of spatial summation in insects, and what are its benefits for vision in dim light? Eric Warrant

3. How well do nocturnal animals see colour at night, and how do animals make a compromise between spetral, spatial resolution and absolute sensitivity of vision? Olle Lind and Almut Kelber

4. How well do nocturnal insects see optic flow information at night, and what processing strategies are employed to maximise the reliability of visual control of flight, navigation and homing? Marie Dacke, Emily Baird and Eric Warrant



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Last modified 2 Jul 2013

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