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High contrast sensitivity for visually guided flight control in bumblebees A Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

Chakravarthi, Aravin, Kelber, Almut, Baird, Emily, Dacke, Marie
Journal of comparative physiology 2017 v.203 no.12 pp. 999-1006
Bombus terrestris, flight, insect flight, insects, nests, vision
Many insects rely on vision to find food, to return to their nest and to carefully control their flight between these two locations. The amount of information available to support these tasks is, in part, dictated by the spatial resolution and contrast sensitivity of their visual systems. Here, we investigate the absolute limits of these visual properties for visually guided position and speed control in Bombus terrestris. Our results indicate that the limit of spatial vision in the translational motion detection system of B. terrestris lies at 0.21 cycles deg⁻¹ with a peak contrast sensitivity of at least 33. In the perspective of earlier findings, these results indicate that bumblebees have higher contrast sensitivity in the motion detection system underlying position control than in their object discrimination system. This suggests that bumblebees, and most likely also other insects, have different visual thresholds depending on the behavioral context.