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Bumblebee visual allometry results in locally improved resolution and globally improved sensitivity

  • Gavin J. Taylor
  • Pierre Tichit
  • Marie D. Schmidt
  • Andrew J. Bodey
  • Christoph Rau
  • Emily Baird
Publishing year: 2019-02-26
Language: English
Publication/Series: ELife
Volume: 8
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: ELife Sciences Publications LTD.

Abstract english

The quality of visual information that is available to an animal is limited by the size of its eyes. Differences in eye size can be observed even between closely related individuals, yet we understand little about how this affects vision. Insects are good models for exploring the effects of size on visual systems because many insect species exhibit size polymorphism. Previous work has been limited by difficulties in determining the 3D structure of eyes. We have developed a novel method based on x-ray microtomography to measure the 3D structure of insect eyes and to calculate predictions of their visual capabilities. We used our method to investigate visual allometry in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris and found that size affects specific aspects of vision, including binocular overlap, optical sensitivity, and dorsofrontal visual resolution. This reveals that differential scaling between eye areas provides flexibility that improves the visual capabilities of larger bumblebees.


  • Zoology
  • allometry
  • computational biology
  • computational geometry
  • eyes
  • MicroCT
  • neuroscience
  • optical model
  • systems biology
  • vision


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 2050-084X
Pierre Tichit
E-mail: pierre [dot] tichit [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Doctoral student

Functional zoology

+46 46 222 93 29



Research group

Lund Vision Group


Flight control in complex environments


Main supervisor

Emily Baird

Assistant supervisor

Marie Dacke