Seeing at the limits: Vision and visual navigation in nocturnal insects

Abstract : Despite their tiny eyes and brains, nocturnal insects have remarkable visual abilities. Our recent work – particularly on fast-flying moths and bees and on ball-rolling dung beetles – has shown that nocturnal animals are able to distinguish colours, to detect faint movements, to learn visual landmarks, to orient to the faint pattern of polarised light produced by the moon and to navigate using the stars. These impressive visual abilities are the result of exquisitely adapted eyes and visual systems, the product of millions of years of evolution. Nocturnal animals typically have highly sensitive eye designs and visual neural circuitry that is optimised for extracting reliable information from dim and noisy visual images. In my talk I will elaborate on these adaptations to show how biological sensors - even very small ones – are capable of high performance at the limits of what is physically possible.

About the speaker : Professor Eric Warrant is Australian by origin and obtained his PhD from Australian National University in 1990. He became a Full Professor at the Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden in 2002 and continues to hold this position. He is currently President Elect of the International Society of Neuroethology and Vice Chairman of the National Committee for Biology, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He is a foremost authority on animal vision and has published 3 books, and several publications that have left their mark in this field. He received the Ig Nobel Prize in 2013 for research that first makes you laugh and then makes you think. He is an elected fellow of several academies of science in Europe including The Royal Physiographic Society and The Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters.