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Insect neural mechanisms could inspire designs for new skylight-based navigation tools for robots. Credit: Christian Lischka, unsplash.
A computational simulation suggests that insects may be capable of using the properties of light from the sky to determine their compass direction with an error of less than two degrees. Evripidis Gkanias of the University of Edinburgh, U.K., and colleagues present their findings in PLOS Computational Biology.
Insects - Honeybees - Locusts - Monarch - Butterflies
Several insects, including honeybees, locusts, and monarch butterflies, use the position of the sun to guide their travel. Even when the sun is not visible, these insects can sense the polarization of light in the sky and use it to estimate the sun's position. However, the precise neural processes by which insects transform properties of light from the sky into an accurate compass sense are unclear.
To explore this question, Gkanias and colleagues built a computational simulation that incorporates a hypothetical system of neurons that an insect's brain could potentially use to reconstruct the sun's position from skylight properties detected by the eye. The simulation also incorporates known...
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