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A functional analysis of compound eye evolution.

  • Dan-E Nilsson
  • Almut Kelber
Publishing year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 373-385
Publication/Series: Arthropod Structure & Development
Volume: 36
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

New data on the phylogenetic relationships of various arthropod groups have spurred interesting attempts to reconstruct the evolution of arthropod

nervous and visual systems. Some of the relevant new data are cell identities and developmental processes in the nervous and sensory

systems, which is particularly useful for reconstructing the evolution of these systems. Here, we focus on the structure of compound eye ommatidia,

and make an evolutionary analysis with functional arguments. We investigate possible routes of evolution that can be understood in

terms of selection for improved visual function, and arrive at a number of conclusions that are discussed in the light of recent phylogenetic

hypotheses. On the basis of ommatidial focusing structures and the arrangement of receptor cells we show that the evolution of compound

eyes proceeded largely independently along at least two lineages from very primitive ancestors. A common ancestor of insects and crustaceans

is likely to have had ommatidia with focusing crystalline cones, and colour and/or polarization vision. In contrast, the compound eyes in myriapods

and chelicerates are likely to date back to ancestors with corneal lenses and probably without the ability to discriminate colour and



  • Zoology
  • Compound eye
  • Evolution
  • Ommatidia


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 1467-8039
Dan-E Nilsson
E-mail: dan-e [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

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+46 70 623 10 64



Research group

Lund Vision Group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Phd Students, main supervisor


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