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Retina neurons in Drosophila

Drosophila have compound eyes which are made up of 800 unit eyes. Each unit is called an ommatidium and each is made of 8 photoreceptor neurones.

Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) vision is often described as a mosaic. Each individual eye unit (ommatidium) perceives an image which are put together to form a mosaic. Each image is very primitive, but together they give the fly the ability to detect movement. As an object moves through a fly’s field of view, each ommatidium can fire individually. This is called the flicker effect.

The development of the Drosophila eye is a highly controlled process. It is an example of deterministic development. This means that each cell division has a determined, or fixed, pathway which it follows exactly. This process is exactly the same in every fruit fly.

The opposite of deterministic development is stochastic development. Stochastic development involves randomness. This means each cellular decision is not pre-determined.

This image was made in response to research by Claude Desplan.