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Flying Drosophila Orient to Sky Polarization

Weir, Peter T. and Dickinson, Michael H. (2012) Flying Drosophila Orient to Sky Polarization. Current Biology, 22 (1). pp. 21-27. ISSN 0960-9822. PMCID PMC4641755. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.026.

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Insects maintain a constant bearing across a wide range of spatial scales. Monarch butterflies and locusts traverse continents [[1] and [2]], and foraging bees and ants travel hundreds of meters to return to their nests [[1], [3] and [4]], whereas many other insects fly straight for only a few centimeters before changing direction. Despite this variation in spatial scale, the brain region thought to underlie long-distance navigation is remarkably conserved [[5] and [6]], suggesting that the use of a celestial compass is a general and perhaps ancient capability of insects. Laboratory studies of Drosophila have identified a local search mode in which short, straight segments are interspersed with rapid turns [[7] and [8]]. However, this flight mode is inconsistent with measured gene flow between geographically separated populations [[9], [10] and [11]], and individual Drosophila can travel 10 km across desert terrain in a single night [[9], [12] and [13]]—a feat that would be impossible without prolonged periods of straight flight. To directly examine orientation behavior under outdoor conditions, we built a portable flight arena in which a fly viewed the natural sky through a liquid crystal device that could experimentally rotate the polarization angle. Our findings indicate that Drosophila actively orient using the sky's natural polarization pattern.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle CentralArticle
Weir, Peter T.0000-0003-3111-7829
Dickinson, Michael H.0000-0002-8587-9936
Additional Information:© 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Received: October 21, 2011; Revised: November 10, 2011; Accepted: November 10, 2011; Published online: December 15, 2011. We thank Marie P. Suver for contributing to a set of preliminary experiments and useful conversations throughout the project. This work was supported by a National Science Foundation FIBR award 0623527 (M.H.D.) and a National Institutes of Health training grant 5-T32-MH019138 (P.T.W.).
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Issue or Number:1
PubMed Central ID:PMC4641755
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120213-112818749
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Official Citation:Peter T. Weir, Michael H. Dickinson, Flying Drosophila Orient to Sky Polarization, Current Biology, Volume 22, Issue 1, 10 January 2012, Pages 21-27, ISSN 0960-9822, 10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.026.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:29258
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:01 Mar 2012 23:57
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 17:05

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