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Miss Milly Sharkey

Miss Milly Sharkey

Miss Milly Sharkey

Biological Sciences (PhD)

Area of research

Development of Polarization Vision in Dragonfly Larvae


To understand the visual ecology of an animal it is important to study what visual information they are able to detect and how/if they are able to use it. The ability of invertebrates, both aquatic and terrestrial, to detect polarized light for various tasks such as navigation and oviposition has been studied in some detail. However, polarization vision in invertebrate larval stages, in particular aquatic insect larvae, has been largely unstudied.

The aim of this project is to answer the following questions:

  • Are dragonfly larvae able to detect polarized light?
  • What do they use this polarization sensitivity for within their aquatic environment?
  • Is polarization vision specifically adapted to cope with the different visual environments encountered as the larvae shift from an aquatic to terrestrial lifestyle?


Dragonfly Larvae

Dragonfly larva (Anax imperator)


In order to answer these questions I will:

  1. Follow the morphological development of the eye throughout the different larval stages using TEM (transmission electron microscopy)
  2. Test the sensitivity of the larvae to polarized light using polarization optomotor behavioural experiments
  3. Test the angular discrimination and resolution of polarization sensitivity using LCD screens
  4. Use 2D microspectrophotometry to investigate the polarization spectral absorbance properties of individual ommatidia throughout the larval eye


I obtained my BSc (1st Class Hons) in biology from the University of Bristol in 2010. I am now undertaking a PhD within the field of 'ecology of vision', under the joint supervision of Professor Julian Partridge and Dr Nicholas Roberts, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


  • Polarization
  • Vision
  • Behaviour
  • Dragonfly
  • Larvae
  • Development
  • Psychophysics


  • Histology and histochemistry
  • transmission electron microscopy
  • microspectrophotometry
  • Psychophysics



School of Biological Sciences


Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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