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The long-distance flight behavior of Drosophila suggests a general model for wind-assisted dispersal in insects

Leitch, Katherine and Ponce, Francesca and van Breugel, Floris and Dickinson, Michael H. (2020) The long-distance flight behavior of Drosophila suggests a general model for wind-assisted dispersal in insects. . (Unpublished)

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Despite the ecological importance of long-distance dispersal in insects, its underlying mechanistic basis is poorly understood. One critical question is how insects interact with the wind to increase their travel distance as they disperse. To gain insight into dispersal using a species amenable to further investigation using genetic tools, we conducted release-and-recapture experiments in the Mojave Desert using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. We deployed chemically-baited traps in a 1 km-radius ring around the release site, equipped with machine vision systems that captured the arrival times of flies as they landed. In each experiment, we released between 30,000 and 200,000 flies. By repeating the experiments under a variety of conditions, we were able to quantify the influence of wind on flies' dispersal behavior. Our results confirm that even tiny fruit flies could disperse ~15 km in a single flight in still air, and might travel many times that distance in a moderate wind. The dispersal behavior of the flies is well explained by a model in which animals maintain a fixed body orientation relative to celestial cues, actively regulate groundspeed along their body axis, and allow the wind to advect them sideways. The model accounts for the observation that flies actively fan out in all directions in still air, but are increasingly advected downwind as winds intensify. In contrast, our field data do not support a Lévy flight model of dispersal, despite the fact that our experimental conditions almost perfectly match the core assumptions of that theory.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
van Breugel, Floris0000-0001-6538-7179
Dickinson, Michael H.0000-0002-8587-9936
Additional Information:The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. All rights reserved. No reuse allowed without permission. Posted June 11, 2020. We wish to thank Massimo Vergassola (UC San Diego), who was principal investigator on a grant from the Simons Foundation (71582123) that funded the initial stages of this project. This work was also supported by the NSF (IOS 1547918). Román Corfas, Ainul Huda, Alysha de Souza, Johan Melis, and Aubrey Goldsmith participated in data collection. Annie Rak contributed to preliminary modeling efforts. Bob Verish provided guidance for safely accessing Coyote Lake, and the Barstow Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management permitted our use of this field site.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Simons Foundation71582123
Subject Keywords:Dispersal, Movement Ecology, Lévy Flight, Drosophila
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200612-145242003
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Official Citation:The long-distance flight behavior of Drosophila suggests a general model for wind-assisted dispersal in insects. Katherine Leitch, Francesca V Ponce, Floris van Breugel, Michael H Dickinson. bioRxiv 2020.06.10.145169; doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:103891
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:12 Jun 2020 22:05
Last Modified:12 Jun 2020 22:05

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