Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): John C. Moser; John D. Reeve; José Maunício S. Bento; Terezinha M.C. Della Lucia; R. Scott Cameron; Natalie M. Heck
    Date: 2004
    Source: J. Zool. Lond. 264: 69-75
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (736 KB)


    The morphology of insect eyes often seems to be shaped by evolution to match their behaviour and lifestyle. Here the relationship between the nuptial flight behaviour of 10 Atta species (Hymenoptera: Fonnicidae) and the eye size of male and female alates, including the compound eyes, ommatidia facets, and ocelli were examined. These species can be divided into two distinct groups by nuptial flight behaviour: those that initiate the nuptial flight during the day and those that initiate it at night. The most striking difference between day- vs night-flying alates was in ocellus area, which was almost 50% larger in night-flying species. Night-flying species also had significantly larger ommatidia facets than day-flying species. A scaling relationship was also found between compound eye area, facet diameter, and ocellus area vs overall body size. Detailed observations are also presented on the nuptial flight behaviour of a night- vs day-flying species, A. texana and A. sexdens, respectively. The pattern in A. texana is for a single large and precisely timed nuptial flight before dawn, while flights of A. sexdens last for several hours, beginning at midday. Further observations suggest that the timing of the nuptial flight in A. texana is easily disrupted by light pollution.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Moser, John C.; Reeve, John D.; Bento, José Maunício S.; Lucia, Terezinha M.C. Della; Cameron, R. Scott; Heck, Natalie M. 2004. Eye size and behaviour of day- and night-flying leafcutting ant alates. J. Zool. Lond. 264: 69-75


    Atta, leaf-cutting ants, nuptial flight, compound eye, ocelli, ommatidia

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page