A Caltech Library Service

The control of wing kinematics and flight forces in fruit flies (Drosophila spp.)

Lehmann, Fritz-Olaf and Dickinson, Michael H. (1998) The control of wing kinematics and flight forces in fruit flies (Drosophila spp.). Journal of Experimental Biology, 201 (3). pp. 385-401. ISSN 0022-0949.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


By simultaneously measuring flight forces and stroke kinematics in several species of fruit flies in the genus Drosophila, we have investigated the relationship between wing motion and aerodynamic force production. We induced tethered flies to vary their production of total flight force by presenting them with a vertically oscillating visual background within a closed-loop flight arena. In response to the visual motion, flies modulated their flight force by changing the translational velocity of their wings, which they accomplished via changes in both stroke amplitude and stroke frequency. Changes in wing velocity could not, however, account for all the modulation in flight force, indicating that the mean force coefficient of the wings also increases with increasing force production. The mean force coefficients were always greater than those expected under steady-state conditions under a variety of assumptions, verifying that force production in Drosophila spp. must involve non-steady-state mechanisms. The subtle changes in kinematics and force production within individual flight sequences demonstrate that flies possess a flexible control system for flight maneuvers in which they can independently control the stroke amplitude, stroke frequency and force coefficient of their wings. By studying four different-sized species, we examined the effects of absolute body size on the production and control of aerodynamic forces. With decreasing body size, the mean angular wing velocity that is required to support the body weight increases. This change is due almost entirely to an increase in stroke frequency, whereas mean stroke amplitude was similar in all four species. Despite the elevated stroke frequency and angular wing velocity, the translational velocity of the wings in small flies decreases with the reduction in absolute wing length. To compensate for their small size, D. nikananu must use higher mean force coefficients than their larger relatives.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Dickinson, Michael H.0000-0002-8587-9936
Additional Information:© 1998 The Company of Biologists Ltd. Accepted 14 November 1997: published on WWW 14 January 1998. We would like to thank Jeff Hamlin for help with the morphological measurements required for this study. The project was funded by a Packard Foundation Fellowship and NSF grant IBN-9208765 (to M.H.D.) and a DFG Post- Doctoral Fellowship (to F.-O.L.).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
David and Lucile Packard FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:aerodynamics; locomotion; flight; scaling; Drosophila spp.
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:LEHjeb97b
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13749
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Jul 2009 23:27
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:44

Repository Staff Only: item control page