Ultrastructure and migration of screening pigments in the retina of Pieris rapae L. (Lepidoptera, Pieridae)

Cell Tissue Res. 1978 Jul 13;191(1):57-73. doi: 10.1007/BF00223215.


The retinal morphology of the butterfly, Pieris rapae L., was investigated using light and electron microscopy with special emphasis on the morphology and distribution of its screening pigments. Pigment migration in pigment- and retinula cells was analysed after light-dark adaptation and after different selective chromatic adaptations. The primary pigment cells with white- to yellow-green pigments symmetrically surround the cone process and the distal half of the crystalline cone, whilst the six secondary pigment cells, around each ommatidium, contain dark brown pigment granules. The nine retinula cells in one ommatidium can be categorised into four types. Receptor cells 1-4, which have microvilli in the distal half of the ommatidium only, contain numerous dark brown pigment granules. On the basis of the pigment content and morphology of their pigment granules, two groups of cells, cells 1, 2 and cells 3, 4 can be distinguished. The four diagonally arranged cells (5-8), with rhabdomeric structures and pigments in the proximal half of the cells, contain small red pigment granules of irregular shape. The ninth cell, which has only a small number of microvilli, lacks pigment. Chromatic adaptation experiments in which the location of retinula cell pigment granules was used as a criterium reveal two UV-receptors (cells 1 and 2), two green receptors (cells 3 and 4) and four cells (5-8) containing the red screening pigment, with a yellow-green sensitivity.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Butterflies / metabolism
  • Butterflies / ultrastructure*
  • Darkness
  • Lepidoptera / ultrastructure*
  • Light
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / physiology
  • Retina / ultrastructure*
  • Retinal Pigments / metabolism*


  • Retinal Pigments