Caste-specific visual adaptations to distinct daily activity schedules in Australian Myrmecia ants

Ajay Narendra*, Samuel F. Reid, Birgit Greiner, Richard A. Peters, Jan M. Hemmi, Willi A. Ribi, Jochen Zeil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1149
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1709
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alates
  • Castes
  • Compound eyes
  • Ocelli
  • Temporal niches
  • Workers


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