A comparison of visual and haltere-mediated equilibrium reflexes in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
Flies exhibit extraordinary maneuverability, relying on feedback from multiple sensory organs to control flight. Both the compound eyes and the mechanosensory halteres encode angular motion as the fly rotates about the three body axes during flight. Since these two sensory modalities differ in their mechanisms of transduction, they are likely to differ in their temporal responses. We recorded changes in stroke kinematics in response to mechanical and visual rotations delivered within a flight simulator. Our results show that the visual system is tuned to relatively slow rotation whereas the haltere-mediated response to mechanical rotation increases with rising angular velocity. The integration of feedback from these two modalities may enhance aerodynamic performance by enabling the fly to sense a wide range of angular velocities during flight.
© 2003 The Company of Biologists Ltd. Accepted 14 October 2002. The authors wish to thank J. Birch, L. Bentley, M. Frye and L. Tammero for their helpful comments on this manuscript. We would like to acknowledge the work of E. Vaaler (Vaaler Engineering) who designed the mechanical structure of the flight simulator, and D. Smith who built the visual display. Finally, we are grateful to A. Flynn for her technical contributions to the project. This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (FD97-23424), the Packard Foundation and DARPA (N00014-98-1-0855).
Published - SHEjeb03.pdf