Large variation among photoreceptors as the basis of visual flexibility in the common backswimmer.

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The common backswimmer, Notonecta glauca, uses vision by day and night for functions such as underwater prey animal capture and flight in search of new habitats. Although previous studies have identified some of the physiological mechanisms facilitating such flexibility in the animal's vision, neither the biophysics of Notonecta photoreceptors nor possible cellular adaptations are known. Here, we studied Notonecta photoreceptors using patch-clamp and intracellular recording methods. Photoreceptor size (approximated by capacitance) was positively correlated with absolute sensitivity and acceptance angles. Information rate measurements indicated that large and more sensitive photoreceptors performed better than small ones. Our results suggest that backswimmers are adapted for vision in both dim and well-illuminated environments by having open-rhabdom eyes with large intrinsic variation in absolute sensitivity among photoreceptors, exceeding those found in purely diurnal or nocturnal species. Both electrophysiology and microscopic analysis of retinal structure suggest two retinal subsystems: the largest peripheral photoreceptors provide vision in dim light and the smaller peripheral and central photoreceptors function primarily in sunlight, with light-dependent pigment screening further contributing to adaptation in this system by dynamically recruiting photoreceptors with varying sensitivity into the operational pool.


  • Esa-Ville Immonen
  • Irina Ignatova
  • Anna Gislén
  • Eric Warrant
  • Mikko Vähäsöyrinki
  • Matti Weckström
  • Roman Frolov
Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Zoologi
TidskriftRoyal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Utgåva nummer1795
StatusPublished - 2014
Peer review utfördJa