Temperature and the temporal resolving power of fly photoreceptors

J Comp Physiol A. 2000 Apr;186(4):399-407. doi: 10.1007/s003590050439.


A hot head gives an insect a clearer view of a moving world because warming reduces motion blur by accelerating photoreceptor responses. Over a natural temperature range, 19-34 degrees C, the speed of response of blowfly (Calliphora vicina) photoreceptors more than doubles, to produce the fastest functional responses recorded from an ocular photoreceptor. This acceleration increases temporal resolving power, as indicated by the corner frequency of the response power spectrum. When light adapted, the corner frequency increases from 53 Hz to 119 Hz with a Q10 of 1.9, and when dark adapted from 8 Hz to 32 Hz with a Q10 of 3.0. Temperature sensitivity originates in the phototransduction cascade, and is associated with signal amplification. The temperature sensitivity of photoreceptors must be taken into account when studying the mechanisms, function and ecology of vision, and gives a distinct advantage to insects that thermoregulate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Dark Adaptation / physiology
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Visual Acuity / physiology*