This study examines the effects of body size variation on the optical properties of the compound eyes of visually guided desert ants belonging to the genus Cataglyphis. Although linear head size may vary by a factor of 2 within conspecific workers and most optical parameters change accordingly, the extent of the visual field remains constant. Comparative measurements carried out on workers of three species (C. albicans, C. bicolor and C. fortis) and on reproductive females and males of one species (C. bicolor) show that the form (size and shape) of the visual field is highly characteristic for each caste/species. A constant visual field is realised by reciprocal scaling rules for the number of ommatidia and the angular spacing of ommatidia. While larger ants have more ommatidia per compound eye, interommatidial angles are reduced accordingly, thus giving rise to a constant visual field. Among conspecific ant workers, the relationship between spatial visual acuity and eye size is similar to that found in interspecific comparisons and reflects optical constraints imposed on the design of the compound eye. Mapping of spatial visual directions onto the compound eye surface reveals a characteristic, inhomogeneous distribution of interommatidial spacing, particularly a foveal band with increased visual acuity in the vertical direction. This 'visual stretch' viewing the horizon is similar to that found in a variety of flying insects. Although, among conspecific workers, both the number of ommatidia and the interommatidial angles vary with varying head size, the overall pattern of interommatidial spacing is maintained so that corresponding positions on the compound eye of small and large individuals look in equivalent directions in space. These findings are in accordance with the observation that the shape of the compound eye surface, as expressed by the radius of curvature along cross sections, is similar in small and large ants.

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