Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-chair

Second Advisor's Name

Jamie Theobald

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-chair

Third Advisor's Name

Lorraine Bahrick

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Anthony Dick

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


vision, plasticity, development, sensitivity, acuity, contrast, motion perception, drosophila, fly, insect

Date of Defense



In this dissertation we explore the morphological and neural plasticity underlying vision at different scales—within and between species of Drosophila—to elucidate the role of eye development in the evolution of vision. In chapter 2, we offer a tool to accelerate large-scale research into compound eye morphology, and validate it on the eyes of several insect orders and image media. Then, in chapter 3 we demonstrate the developmental plasticity of eye morphology and neural summation in fruit flies, finding an interesting interplay between the two systems. In chapter 4, we elucidate the role of visual plasticity and neural summation in the evolution of vision by comparing vinegar and desert flies. Finally, in chapter 5, we show how future and ongoing work is diving into the mechanisms underlying this visual plasticity by measuring the effect of early temperature, exploring regional differences across the visual field, and detecting light-induced circadian activity.




Previously Published In

for chapter 2:

Currea, John P., Yash Sondhi, Akito Y. Kawahara, and Jamie Theobald. “Measuring Compound Eye Optics with Microscope and MicroCT Images.” BioRxiv, January 28, 2021, 2020.12.11.422154.

for chapter 3:

Currea, John P., Joshua L. Smith, and Jamie C. Theobald. “Small Fruit Flies Sacrifice Temporal Acuity to Maintain Contrast Sensitivity.” Vision Research 149 (August 2018): 1–8.



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