Scanning behavior by larvae of the predacious diving beetle, Thermonectus marmoratus (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) enlarges visual field prior to prey capture

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2007 Sep;193(9):973-82. doi: 10.1007/s00359-007-0250-x. Epub 2007 Jul 17.


Larvae of the predaceous diving beetle Thermonectus marmoratus bear six stemmata on each side of their head, two of which form relatively long tubes with linear retinas at their proximal ends. The physical organization of these eyes results in extremely narrow visual fields that extend only laterally in the horizontal body plane. There are other examples of animals possessing eyes with predominantly linear retinas, or with linear arrangements of specific receptor types. In these animals, the eyes, or parts of the eyes, are movable and perform scanning movements to increase the visual field. Based on anatomical data and observations of relatively transparent, immobilized young larvae, we report here that T. marmoratus larvae are incapable of moving their eyes or any part of their eyes within the head capsule. However, they do perform a series of bodily dorso-ventral pivots prior to prey capture, behaviorally extending the vertical visual field from 2 degrees to up to 50 degrees. Frame-by-frame analysis shows that such behavior is performed within a characteristic distance to the prey. These data provide first insights into the function of the very peculiar anatomical eye organization of T. marmoratus larvae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coleoptera / cytology*
  • Larva / physiology
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology