Ommatidial heterogeneity in the compound eye of the male small white butterfly, Pieris rapae crucivora

Cell Tissue Res. 2002 Mar;307(3):371-9. doi: 10.1007/s00441-002-0517-z. Epub 2002 Feb 23.


The ommatidia in the ventral two-thirds of the compound eye of male Pieris rapae crucivora are not uniform. Each ommatidium contains nine photoreceptor cells. Four cells (R1-4) form the distal two-thirds of the rhabdom, four cells (R5-8) approximately occupy the proximal one-third of the rhabdom, and the ninth cell (R9) takes up a minor basal part of the rhabdom. The R5-8 photoreceptor cells contain clusters of reddish pigment adjacent to the rhabdom. From the position of the pigment clusters, three types of ommatidia can be identified: the trapezoidal (type I), square (type II), and rectangular type (type III). Microspectrophotometry with an epi-illumination microscope has revealed that the reflectance spectra of type I and type III ommatidia peak at 635 nm and those of type II ommatidia peak at 675 nm. The bandwith of the reflectance spectra is 40-50 nm. Type II ommatidia strongly fluoresce under ultra-violet and violet epi-illumination. The three types of ommatidia are randomly distributed. The ommatidial heterogeneity is presumably crucial for color discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butterflies / anatomy & histology*
  • Butterflies / metabolism
  • Fluorescence
  • Light
  • Male
  • Microscopy
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / ultrastructure*
  • Pigmentation