It turned out how insects see light. Scientists used to think differently

While trying to characterize the color receptors in the eyes of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the spectrum of light it can see differs significantly from previously recorded data. Research results are reported by Scientific Reports.

Fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is a dipteran insect, a species of fruit fly from the genus Drosophila, most often used in genetic experiments. In modern biological literature, it is often referred to as simply “fruit fly” or “fruit fly”. In the second half of the 20th century, it became one of the main model organisms for studying the developmental biology of living organisms.

Since the proposal by Charles W. Woodworth to use this species as a model organism, D. melanogaster has continued to be widely used for biological research in genetics, physiology, microbial pathogenesis, and life cycle evolution. As of 2017, six Nobel Prizes have been awarded for research using Drosophila. This insect is commonly used in research because of its fast life cycle, relatively simple genetics with four pairs of chromosomes and a large number of offspring per generation.

The latest study of the sensitivity of Drosophila photoreceptors conducted by scientists is one of the first studies of this kind in 20 years. Through their genetic work and through technological advances, researchers have been able to study the sensitivity of photoreceptors to different wavelengths of light (or hue).

Research has shown:

  • all receptors – those that process UV, blue and green – had significant shifts in light sensitivity compared to what was previously known;
  • the most significant shift occurred in the green photoreceptor, its photosensitivity shifted by 92 nm – from 508 nm to 600 nm; equivalent to better perception of orange rather than green;
  • a yellow carotenoid filter in the eye (derived from vitamin A) contributes to this shift;
  • the red pigmented eyes of fruit flies transmit long wavelength light between photoreceptors, which can negatively affect the fly’s vision.

The researchers found this by reducing the amount of carotenoids in the diet of red-eyed flies and testing insects with reduced eye pigmentation. While species of black-eyed flies (such as houseflies) may better isolate long-wavelength light for each pixel of their vision, flies with red eyes (fruit flies) are likely to suffer from impaired vision.

The carotenoid filter, which absorbs light in the blue and violet spectrum, also has a secondary effect. It sharpens the photoreceptors of ultraviolet light, helping flies better discriminate between the wavelengths of light and, as a result, provide them with better color vision.

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