The eyes of a patrolling butterfly: Visual field and eye structure in the Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme (Lepidoptera, Pieridae)

Justin W. Merry, Nathan I. Morehouse, Kasey Yturralde, Ronald L. Rutowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Sensory information plays a critical role in determining an animal's behavior on both proximate and evolutionary timescales. Butterflies, like many other insects, use vision extensively over their lifetimes, and yet relatively little work has been published to date on their visual capabilities. We describe the visual system of a pierid butterfly, Colias eurytheme, with the ultimate goal of better understanding its role in shaping the behavior of this animal. We made several measurements: visual field dimensions, eye surface area, interommatidial angle (Δφ), facet diameter (D), and eye parameter (p). C. eurytheme had a large visual field and considerable regional variation in visual acuity, as inferred by Δφ and D. When compared to females, males had larger eye surface areas, smaller Δφ, and larger D in all regions except ventrally. Both sexes had proportionally large eye surface areas compared to other butterflies. Minimum p in males was small, indicating that some regions of their eyes may operate close to the diffraction limit. Finally, we found that both eye surface area and D scaled positively, but with negative allometry to body size. We discuss the relevance of these visual characteristics to the biology and behavior of C. eurytheme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-248
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of insect physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006



  • Allometry
  • Compound eye
  • Eye morphology
  • Regional variation
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science

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