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Polarization Induced Colour Patterns: a Model of the Perception of the Polarized Skylight By Insects

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

1. A hypothesis about the perception of the polarization pattern in the sky as a colour pattern is developed in particular for the honeybee. 2. Essential for the hypothesis is a modulation in the stimulation contribution of one or more colour receptors; the modulation is supposed to depend on the E-vector direction. This effect together with integration of the receptor contributions produces some colour within the ommatidium's field of view. 3. Because of a specific orientation, the E-vector sensitive receptors in the dorsal part of the eye would encode the polarization pattern into a specific pattern of colourbands, which usually has the shape of a deformed Malthese cross around the zenith (Fig. 2a, b) with one pair of arms directed towards the position of the sun (colour A). The model describes all these connections. 4. Under the influence of linear polarized light the distribution of the bee's running directions were determined in an arena following JACOBS-JESSEN'S method (1959). Successively light of various spectral composition was presented to bees, stimulating either one, two or three types of receptors. 6. By stimulating the green receptors only, no directions of preference were recorded: hence with the green receptors only, the bee is not able to perceive the polarization of light. This result is in agreement with behaviour experiments by VON FRISCH (1965). 7. One (parallel to the E-vector), two (one parallel and one perpendicular to the direction of the E-vector) or four directions of running preferences (the two mentioned before + two intermediate ones) occurred dependent on the ratio ofstimulation between the three types of colour receptors. These results are contradictory to a detection of polarized light by the exclusive action of UV receptors in the bee's 9th retinula cells. These results support the hypothesis that integration of the contributions of different types of receptors occurs in polarization perception. 8. The distribution of the running directions in the arena experiments can be explained by the presented colour pattern hypothesis in terms of differences in colour saturation and brightness at different positions on the arena ceiling (similar to the asymptotic natural pattern near the zenith).

Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of comparative Physiology, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands


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