The neuronal substrate of compass orientation
In this project, our aim is to understand the neural network underlying the processing of skylight signals in the dung beetle brain. To obtain this, we analyze the neural mechanisms anatomically and physiologically and correlate this to the behavioral output of the sky compass network.
Using immunohistochemical and imagine techniques combined with 3D modelling, we are characterizing the general brain architecture and the sky compass network of the dung beetle brain. Can we find similarities to the sky compass network that has been described in migrating insects? Where exactly are the differences in the neural mechanisms? To reveal this, we present simulated sky compass signals to the beetles and investigate the neural response of compass neurons through intracellular recordings. In addition, we are analyzing the output of the internal compass through behavioral studies in the field and in the laboratory. Which relevance does each sky compass signal have for the straight-line orientation of the beetles? The ultimate goal is to obtain a full picture of sky compass orientation by bringing together brain activity and behavior in one model organism.