Viewing directions (eye map) of each Drosophila ommatidium
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Drosophila eye map


This software package concerns the eye-map of Drosophila melanogaster made by Erich Buchner during his diplom thesis in 1971. These data were digitized from a high resolution scan of Buchner's figure and converted to 3D and saved to the included file receptor_directions_buchner71.csv.


Tested with Python 2 and 3.

cd drosophila_eye_map python cd .. python install

Souce code repository

This source code is being hosted at

Python package requirements

To use any of the included programs, you will need the Python language. For full functionality, this package depends on basemap, numpy, scipy, cgkit (1.x), matplotlib, the Python Imaging Library, and, optionally, the Python VTK bindings. To simply use the receptor_directions_buchner71.csv file, however, any program which can open a CSV (comma separated values) file will work.

Drosophila eye map

The Drosophila melanogaster eye map of Buchner (1971) [1], as published in Heisenberg and Wolf (1984) [2] on page 11, Fig. 2.

Drosophila eye map with interommatidial distance

Data of Buchner showing the eye map of Drosophila melanogaster eye map overlaid on a colormap showing interommatidial distance averaged over each ommatidium's nearest neighbors. (This image was generated using the script included in the package.)

Drosophila eye map

Interactive 3D view of the eyemap. (This was generated using the script included in the package.)

Orthographic projection Drosophila eye map with interommatidial distance

Same data as the color stereographic projection above, but plotted on an orthographic projection for comparison with an eyemap of Eristalis tenax. (This image was generated using the script included in the package.)


To download current and older versions of this package, go to the download page


These programs and files have been extracted from Andrew Straw's fsee software package for simulating the visual world of Drosophila described in Dickson, Straw, and Dickinson (2008) [3], part of the GUF endeavor. At the 2nd International Conference on Invertebrate Vision in Sweden, 2008, Andrew learned that a digitized form of the Drosophila eye map would be useful to others, and so he created this package.

This is release 0.5.0, released 27 July 2017.

Contents of the package

In the top directory:

  • CHANGELOG.txt - list of changes since last release
  • LICENSE.txt - the (BSD) license
  • README.txt - this file
  • - script to install the software
  • - script to release a package (only useful for maintainer)
  • drosophila_eye_map/ - subdirectory, see below

In the drosophila_eye_map subdirectory:

  • - Empty file required for Python
  • - raphical program to inspect weightmap
  • - Plot Buchner's data overlaid on a colormap showing mean interommatidial distance.
  • - Python script which is automatically inserted into the output of
  • - Python script used to take the output of and convert it to a 3D coordinate system. Furthermore, a Gaussian spatial weighting map inspired by Neumann (2002) [4] is also implemented. These precomputed data are then saved for use by other programs as a file called
  • receptor_directions_buchner71.csv - Comma separated value (CSV) file which indicates the directions of the ommaditial axes in 3D as vectors in a unit sphere. Output by Note that this includes axes for both eyes (1398 ommatidia). To get the axes for a single eye, take the first or last 699 rows. The coordinate system is arranged so that +X is frontal (rostral), +Y is left, and +Z is dorsal.
  • - Python script used to digitize the locations of the ommatidial axes on the stereographic projection of eye_map.gif.
  • - Utility routines used by


This software was written by Andrew Straw <>, is copyright by the California Institute of Technology, and is licensed under the BSD license. See the LICENSE.txt file for details.

Related software

ArthroVision by the Invariant Corporation is an insect optics simulation package.

(See also the History section, above, for a description of Andrew Straw's fsee software package.)


[1]Buchner, E. (1971) Dunkelanregung des stationaeren Flugs der Fruchtfliege Drosophila. Dipl Thesis, Univ Tuebingen.
[2]Heisenberg, M. and Wolf, R., (1984) Vision in Drosophila: Genetics Microbehavior (Studies of Brain Function). Springer Verlag.
[3]Dickson, W.B., Straw, A.D., and Dickinson, M.H. (2008) "Integrative Model of Drosophila Flight." AIAA Journal, 46(9). doi: 10.2514/1.29862
[4]Neumann, T. (2002) "Modeling Insect Compound Eyes: Space-Variant Spherical Vision." Biologically Motivated Computer Vision, Proceedings. Springer Verlag. Vol 2525, pp. 360-367. doi: 10.1007/3-540-36181-2_36