Does reflection polarization by plants influence colour perception in insects? Polarimetric measurements applied to a polarization-sensitive model retina of Papilio butterflies

Gábor Horváth, József Gál, Thomas Labhart, Rüdiger Wehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using imaging polarimetry, we have measured some typical reflection-polarization patterns of plant surfaces (leaves and flowers) under different illuminations. Using a quantitative model to determine photon absorptions in the weakly polarization-sensitive (PS≈2) photoreceptors of Papilio butterflies, we have calculated the influence of reflection polarization on the colours of leaves and flowers perceived by Papilio. Compared with a retina containing polarization-blind colour receptors, the colour loci of specularly reflecting and, thus, strongly polarizing areas on a plant are slightly shifted, which could cause the perception of false colours. However, the colour of specularly reflecting surfaces is strongly masked by white glare, which may prevent the perception of polarization-induced hue shifts. Although the perception of polarizational false colours by Papilio butterflies was previously demonstrated with artificial, strongly colour-saturated and totally linearly polarized stimuli, we expect that the weak polarization sensitivity of Papilio photoreceptors hardly influences colour perception under natural conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3281-3298
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume205
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2002

Keywords

  • Colour perception
  • Computer modelling
  • Imaging polarimetry
  • Plant-insect interactions
  • Polarization sensitivity
  • Polarizational false colours
  • Reflection polarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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