TitleEvolutionary constraints on flicker fusion frequency in Lepidoptera.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsChatterjee P, Mohan U, Krishnan A, Sane SP
JournalJ Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol
Date Published2020 Jun 11

Flying insects occupy both diurnal and nocturnal niches, and their visual systems encounter distinct challenges in both conditions. Visual adaptations, such as superposition eyes of moths, enhance sensitivity to low light levels but trade off with spatial and temporal resolution. Conversely, apposition eyes of butterflies enable high spatial resolution but are poorly sensitive in dim light. Although diel activity patterns of insects influence visual processing, their role in evolution of visual systems is relatively unexplored. Lepidopteran insects present an excellent system to study how diel activity patterns and phylogenetic position influence the visual transduction system. We addressed this question by comparing electroretinography measurements of temporal response profiles of diverse Lepidoptera to light stimuli that were flickering at different frequencies. Our data show that the eyes of diurnal butterflies are sensitive to visual stimuli of higher temporal frequencies than nocturnal moths. Hesperiid skippers, which are typically diurnal or crepuscular, exhibit intermediate phenotypes with peak sensitivity across broader frequency range. Across all groups, species within families exhibited similar phenotypes irrespective of diel activity. Thus, Lepidopteran photoreceptors may have diversified under phylogenetic constraints, and shifts in their sensitivity to higher temporal frequencies occurred concomitantly with the evolution of diurnal lifestyles.

Alternate JournalJ. Comp. Physiol. A Neuroethol. Sens. Neural. Behav. Physiol.
PubMed ID32529485
Grant ListFA2386-11-1-4057 and # FA9550-16-1-0155 / / Air Force Office of Scientific Research /