Neural organisation in the first optic ganglion of the nocturnal bee Megalopta genalis

Cell Tissue Res. 2004 Nov;318(2):429-37. doi: 10.1007/s00441-004-0945-z. Epub 2004 Sep 10.


Each neural unit (cartridge) in the first optic ganglion (lamina) of the nocturnal bee Megalopta genalis contains nine receptor cell axons (6 short and 3 long visual fibres), and four different types of first-order interneurons, also known as L-fibres (L1 to L4) or lamina monopolar cells. The short visual fibres terminate within the lamina as three different types (svf 1, 2, 3). The three long visual fibres pass through the lamina without forming characteristic branching patterns and terminate in the second optic ganglion, the medulla. The lateral branching pattern of svf 2 into adjacent cartridges is unique for hymenopterans. In addition, all four types of L-fibres show dorso-ventrally arranged, wide, lateral branching in this nocturnal bee. This is in contrast to the diurnal bees Apis mellifera and Lasioglossum leucozonium, where only two out of four L-fibre types (L2 and L4) reach neighbouring cartridges. In M. genalis, L1 forms two sub-types, viz. L1-a and L1-b; L1-b in particular has the potential to contact several neighbouring cartridges. L2 and L4 in the nocturnal bee are similar to L2 and L4 in the diurnal bees but have dorso-ventral arborisations that are twice as wide. A new type of laterally spreading L3 has been discovered in the nocturnal bee. The extensive neural branching pattern of L-fibres in M. genalis indicates a potential role for these neurons in the spatial summation of photons from large groups of ommatidia. This specific adaptation in the nocturnal bee could significantly improve reliability of vision in dim light.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Bees / anatomy & histology*
  • Bees / physiology
  • Dark Adaptation / physiology*
  • Darkness
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / ultrastructure*
  • Interneurons / ultrastructure
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Visual Pathways / ultrastructure*