University of Oulu

Roman V. Frolov, Atsuko Matsushita, Kentaro Arikawa. Not flying blind: a comparative study of photoreceptor function in flying and non-flying cockroaches. Journal of Experimental Biology 2017 220: 2335-2344; doi: 10.1242/jeb.159103

Not flying blind : a comparative study of photoreceptor function in flying and non-flying cockroaches

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Author: Frolov, Roman V.1; Matsushita, Atsuko2; Arikawa, Kentaro2
Organizations: 1Faculty of Science, Nano and Molecular Materials Research Unit, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, Oulun Yliopisto 90014, Finland
2Laboratory of Neuroethology, Sokendai (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies), Shonan Village, Hayama 240-0193, Japan
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 4.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Company of Biologists, 2017
Publish Date: 2019-01-28


Flying is often associated with superior visual performance, as good vision is crucial for detection and implementation of rapid visually guided aerial movements. To understand the evolution of insect visual systems it is therefore important to compare phylogenetically related species with different investments in flight capability. Here, we describe and compare morphological and electrophysiological properties of photoreceptors from the habitually flying green cockroach Panchlora nivea and the American cockroach Periplaneta americana, which flies only at high ambient temperatures. In contrast to Periplaneta, ommatidia in Panchlora were characterized by two-tiered rhabdom, which might facilitate detection of polarized light while flying in the dark. In patch-clamp experiments, we assessed the absolute sensitivity to light, elementary and macroscopic light-activated current and voltage responses, voltage-activated potassium (Kv) conductances, and information transfer. Both species are nocturnal, and their photoreceptors were similarly sensitive to light. However, a number of important differences were found, including the presence in Panchlora of a prominent transient Kv current and a generally low variability in photoreceptor properties. The maximal information rate in Panchlora was one-third higher than in Periplaneta, owing to a substantially higher gain and membrane corner frequency. The differences in performance could not be completely explained by dissimilarities in the light-activated or Kv conductances; instead, we suggest that the superior performance of Panchlora photoreceptors mainly originates from better synchronization of elementary responses. These findings raise the issue of whether the evolutionary tuning of photoreceptor properties to visual demands proceeded differently in Blattodea than in Diptera.

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Series: Journal of experimental biology
ISSN: 0022-0949
ISSN-E: 1477-9145
ISSN-L: 0022-0949
Volume: 220
Pages: 2335 - 2344
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.159103
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1184 Genetics, developmental biology, physiology
3112 Neurosciences
Funding: This research was partially supported by a Kakenhi grant (26251036) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to K.A.
Copyright information: © 2017 The Authors. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.