Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Blinded by Speed, Tiger Beetles Use Antennae to 'See' While Running

Speed is blinding. Just ask the tiger beetle: This predatory insect has excellent sight, but when it chases prey, it runs so fast it can no longer see where it’s going.

Cornell University researchers have discovered that, unlike insects that wave their “feelers” around to acquire information, tiger beetles rigidly hold their antennae directly in front of them to mechanically sense their environments and avoid obstacles while running, according to a study published online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The findings raise questions about strategies used by other fast animals, such as birds of prey and some fish, to sense their environments when speed blinds. The research also has implications for autonomous vehicles that could use fixed antennae to detect obstacles.

“For an insect with really good vision that is active in the daytime normally, you would think it would not rely on antennae for sensing its environment,” said Cole Gilbert, Cornell professor of entomology and the paper’s senior author. Daniel Zurek, a postdoctoral researcher in Gilbert’s lab, is the paper’s first author.

“It has evolved important mechano-sensing behavior while running because it runs so fast,” Gilbert added.

In an earlier paper, Gilbert reported that tiger beetles run so fast, their eyes cannot capture enough light to form images of their prey. Therefore, the insects stop for just milliseconds to relocate prey, then start running again.

Gilbert and Zurek sought to learn how the running insects negotiate obstacles in their habitat, such as crevasses or grass stems, and what role their characteristically forward antennae play. To test this, the researchers set up a runway with a hurdle: In one experiment normal tiger beetles (of the species Cicindela hirticollis) ran the track and negotiated the hurdle, tilting their bodies up when their antennae touched the hurdle; in a second experiment, the researchers painted over the beetles’ eyes and found these blind beetles responded similarly. In the third test, they clipped the antennae of sighted beetles, and the insects smacked right into the hurdle.

The experiment revealed that for fast-moving tiger beetles, “eyes are not sufficient or necessary to avoid obstacles,” Gilbert said. “The antennae are held extremely rigid with the tips 1.5 millimeters off the ground, so they would potentially pick up any discontinuity in the surface.”

Gilbert questions how peregrine falcons and predatory fish compensate for blurry sight while speeding towards prey, potential research areas that no one has tested. The current study may provide a model for new questions. It’s possible, for example, that motion-blind fish perhaps employ their lateral line, sense organs found in aquatic vertebrates used to detect movement and vibration in water.

Also, autonomous vehicles could employ protruding antennae to sense their surroundings, as some of the first robots were fitted with, said Gilbert. “It would be cheaper than cameras,” he said. “For some applications, an antennae might be a solution, it is certainly one that worked evolutionarily for tiger beetles.”

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation

Joe Schwartz | Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Atom-Sized Craters Make a Catalyst Much More Active
30.11.2015 | SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

nachricht Hydra Can Modify Its Genetic Program
30.11.2015 | Université de Genève (University of Geneva)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Teamplay IT solution enables more efficient use of protocols

30.11.2015 | Trade Fair News

Greater efficiency and potentially reduced costs with new MRI applications

30.11.2015 | Trade Fair News

Modular syngo.plaza as a comprehensive solution – even for enterprise radiology

30.11.2015 | Trade Fair News

More VideoLinks >>>