Oceili: A Celestial Compass in the Desert Ant Cataglyphis

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Science  12 Apr 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4696, pp. 192-194
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4696.192


In addition to multifaceted lateral compound eyes, most insects possess three frontal eyes called ocelli. Each ocellus has a single lens, as does the vertebrate eye. The ocelli of some flying insects, locusts and dragonflies, have been shown to function as horizon detectors involved in the visual stabilization of course. In a walking insect, the desert ant Cataglyphis, it is now shown that the ocelli can read compass information from the blue sky. When the ant's compound eyes are occluded and both sun and landmarks are obscured, the ocelli, using the pattern of polarized light in the sky as a compass cue, help in guiding the ant back home.

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