Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Caste-specific visual adaptations to distinct daily activity schedules in Australian Myrmecia ants

Ajay Narendra

Ajay Narendra

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

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Samuel F. Reid

Samuel F. Reid

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

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Birgit Greiner

Birgit Greiner

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

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Richard A. Peters

Richard A. Peters

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Department of Zoology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia

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Jan M. Hemmi

Jan M. Hemmi

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

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Willi A. Ribi

Willi A. Ribi

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Private University of Liechtenstein, FL-9495 Triesen, Principality of Liechtenstein

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Jochen Zeil

Jochen Zeil

ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Bldg 46, Canberra, ACT, Australia

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    Animals are active at different times of the day and their activity schedules are shaped by competition, time-limited food resources and predators. Different temporal niches provide different light conditions, which affect the quality of visual information available to animals, in particular for navigation. We analysed caste-specific differences in compound eyes and ocelli in four congeneric sympatric species of Myrmecia ants, with emphasis on within-species adaptive flexibility and daily activity rhythms. Each caste has its own lifestyle: workers are exclusively pedestrian; alate females lead a brief life on the wing before becoming pedestrian; alate males lead a life exclusively on the wing. While workers of the four species range from diurnal, diurnal-crepuscular, crepuscular-nocturnal to nocturnal, the activity times of conspecific alates do not match in all cases. Even within a single species, we found eye area, facet numbers, facet sizes, rhabdom diameters and ocelli size to be tuned to the distinct temporal niche each caste occupies. We discuss these visual adaptations in relation to ambient light levels, visual tasks and mode of locomotion.

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