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Published May 15, 2010 | public
Journal Article Open

Drosophila fly straight by fixating objects in the face of expanding optic flow


Flies, like all animals that depend on vision to navigate through the world, must integrate the optic flow created by self-motion with the images generated by prominent features in their environment. Although much is known about the responses of Drosophila melanogaster to rotating flow fields, their reactions to the more complex patterns of motion that occur as they translate through the world are not well understood. In the present study we explore the interactions between two visual reflexes in Drosophila: object fixation and expansion avoidance. As a fly flies forward, it encounters an expanding visual flow field. However, recent results have demonstrated that Drosophila strongly turn away from patterns of expansion. Given the strength of this reflex, it is difficult to explain how flies make forward progress through a visual landscape. This paradox is partially resolved by the finding reported here that when undergoing flight directed towards a conspicuous object, Drosophila will tolerate a level of expansion that would otherwise induce avoidance. This navigation strategy allows flies to fly straight when orienting towards prominent visual features.

Additional Information

© 2010 The Company of Biologists Ltd. Accepted 30 January 2010. We thank Dr Mark Frye for constructive discussion during the early stages of this project. This work was supported by the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies through grant DAAD 19-03-D-0004 from the US Army Research Office, by NSF award 0623527 to M.H.D. and the CNSE Engineering Research Center at Caltech though NSF award EEC-9402726. We are grateful to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for supporting M.B.R. as a Janelia Fellow. Deposited in PMC for release after 6 months.

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Supplemental Material - 035147FigS1.jpg

Supplemental Material - 035147FigS2.jpg

Published - Reiser2010p10073J_Exp_Biol.pdf


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August 21, 2023
August 21, 2023