Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bad eye for the straight fly: Male flesh flies do not need high-definition vision to catch and mate with females

11.11.2003


While examining the flight behavior of flesh flies, Cornell University entomologists have discovered that males of the species (Sarcophagidae: Neobellieria bullata ) -- traveling at very high speed, soaring in sexual pursuit and swiveling their heads like gun turrets -- literally can lose sight of a target female. Yet the males compensate for the momentary loss of vision and still catch up to mate.



A detailed explanation of this quirk in vision physiology and neurological processing could help military and aerospace engineers to build aircraft and artillery that have improved detection of evasive targets.

"This fly has a very small brain, but it moves at relatively fast speeds, over 2 meters per second. The male flesh fly is very successful at chasing and catching the female even without an elaborate, high-powered onboard computer. Our study is the first to determine that chasers, indeed, radically move their heads while in pursuit, which means that they may be aiming the high-resolution part of their eye at the female," said Cole Gilbert, Cornell University professor of entomology. He is presenting this research today Nov. 10, at the Society for Neuroscience meeting at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Gilbert’s poster presentation is titled "View from the cockpit of a fly: visual guidance of sexual aerial pursuit in male flesh flies."


Flesh flies are so named because of their diet: They are among the first species to show up on dead animals. It was near such road-kill carcasses that the researchers were able to gather the males and females of this species.

While male flesh flies have evolved high-resolution regions in their compound eye, for the purpose of catching and mating with females, those high-definition parts are not always necessary, the researchers found. "Some flies look right at their target and others do not," said Gilbert. "Knowing where the fly is looking is important because visual properties, such as spatial acuity and processing speed of photoreceptive cells, vary across the fly’s retina and across the fly’s field of view."

To study the sexual, aerial pursuit of flesh flies, Gilbert, along with P. Olivier Zanen, Cornell postdoctoral researcher, and John E. Layne, Cornell researcher in entomology, managed to observe the flies, in flight, on high-speed digital video at 250 frames per second. The entomologists looked at individual video frames and measured the precise angular rotation of each fly’s head. By examining different facets of the compound eyes, the entomologists measured the spacing of the optical axes and were able to distinguish between the high-resolution and the low-resolution parts of the compound eyes.

The scientists then took the digital video, fed it into an imaging software program on a computer and added the position of the female. The computer imaging software turned the digital files into three-dimensional re-created animations. The researchers then used a "ray-tracing" technique on the animations to glean the direction that the male fly was looking and to see which part of the compound eye was being used to image the female.

Through this technique, the entomologists learned that male flies, in pursuit of females, turn their heads during the chase and that despite having high-definition eye facets, the males do not necessarily use them. The next step is to learn how the turret-like head movement contributes to visual guidance.

When Gilbert and his colleagues discuss the fly’s high speed, they put that information into comparable human terms. To equal the relative speed of a male flesh fly, a man would have to run at the supersonic speed of Mach 1.2, or at about half the maximum speed of an F-15 Eagle aircraft. In relative speed to the fly, the F-15 Eagle aircraft itself would have to reach a hypersonic speed close to Mach 12.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health for training neuroscientists in understanding the neurobiological basis of animal behavior. Other support was a grant from the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research, which unites aerospace engineers with neurobiologists to examine evolutionary animal solutions to problems of interest to engineers.

Blaine P. Friedlander Jr. | Cornell News
Further information:
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Nov03/SexFliesGilbert.bpf.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>