The photoreceptor localization confirms the spectral heterogeneity of ommatidia in the male small white butterfly, Pieris rapae crucivora

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003 Feb;189(2):81-8. doi: 10.1007/s00359-002-0380-0. Epub 2002 Dec 20.


The compound eye of Pieris rapae crucivora contains ventrally three types of histologically distinct ommatidia. An ommatidium contains nine photoreceptors, four of which (R1-4) construct the distal tier of the rhabdom. We determined the sensitivity spectra of the R1-4 distal photoreceptors in each type of ommatidia by intracellular electrophysiology and identified UV, blue, double-peaked blue, green, and a green receptor with depressed sensitivity in the violet. We localized these receptors in each type of ommatidia by injecting dye after the recording. In type I ommatidia the R1 and R2 cells are UV and blue receptors. When R1 is UV sensitive, R2 is always blue sensitive, or vice versa. R3 and R4 in type I are both green receptors. In type II, R1 and R2 are both double-peaked blue receptors and R3 and R4 are both green receptors with depressed sensitivity in the violet. In type III, R1 and R2 are both UV, and R3 and R4 are green receptors. The double-peaked blue, and green receptors with depressed sensitivity in the violet in type II ommatidia have depressed sensitivity at 420 nm, which is probably due to the filtering effect of a fluorescing material present in the type II ommatidia. Spectral heterogeneity of ommatidia seems to be a common design of insect compound eyes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butterflies / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Insect Proteins / analysis
  • Insect Proteins / classification
  • Light
  • Male
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / chemistry*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Retinal Pigments / analysis*
  • Retinal Pigments / classification
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Insect Proteins
  • Retinal Pigments