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Published February 6, 2017 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

The Function and Organization of the Motor System Controlling Flight Maneuvers in Flies


Animals face the daunting task of controlling their limbs using a small set of highly constrained actuators. This problem is particularly demanding for insects such as Drosophila, which must adjust wing motion for both quick voluntary maneuvers and slow compensatory reflexes using only a dozen pairs of muscles. To identify strategies by which animals execute precise actions using sparse motor networks, we imaged the activity of a complete ensemble of wing control muscles in intact, flying flies. Our experiments uncovered a remarkably efficient logic in which each of the four skeletal elements at the base of the wing are equipped with both large phasically active muscles capable of executing large changes and smaller tonically active muscles specialized for continuous fine-scaled adjustments. Based on the responses to a broad panel of visual motion stimuli, we have developed a model by which the motor array regulates aerodynamically functional features of wing motion.

Additional Information

© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. Received 18 October 2016, Revised 6 December 2016, Accepted 8 December 2016, Available online 26 January 2017, Published: January 26, 2017. We would like to thank Peter Weir for suggesting several insightful analyses. This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (IOS 1452510). Author Contributions: Conceptualization, M.D. and T.L.; Methodology, T.L., M.D., and A.S.; Investigation, T.L. and A.S.; Writing – Original Draft, T.L. and M.D.; Writing – Review & Editing, T.L., M.D., and A.S.; Funding Acquisition, M.D.; Resources, M.D.; Supervision, M.D. Accession Numbers: The accession number for the data reported in this paper is Dryad: http://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.23nm1.

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