Quick choices of flying bugs


PICTURE: Professor Karin Nordström, who leads the Motion Vision group at Flinders University More

Photo credit: Flinders Foundation, Jonathan Barge photographer

Scientists study the amazing flight abilities of insects. How flying insects can react quickly and appropriately in a rapidly changing environment is a serious goal of the new study by the Australian Research Council.

Led by Karin Nordström, professor at Flinders University, and Andrew Barron, professor at Macquarie University who will “train” European honey bees, the new ARC project will help to find out how insects move around the world help them make quick decisions.

“Life or Death Decisions: Making Quick, Accurate Decisions in a Complex World” is a $ 533,000 discovery project (DP210100740) that combines brain recordings with flight analysis and computer modeling to generate new knowledge about how animals can use movement. to simplify the sampling of information.

“If you’ve ever tried to hit a fly, you know that it responds to movement extremely quickly – about ten times faster than we do,” says ARC Future Fellow Professor Nordström, who leads the Hover-Motion Vision Research Group at Flinders.

“Some insects are so small but powerful that we can learn a lot from understanding the neural and behavioral mechanisms that enable them to be very efficient gatherers and experts at attacking and evading other insects.”

The results of this ARC research will inform aspects of autonomous robotics and systems, computational neuroscience, aviation, defense, technologies required for challenging situations such as disaster relief, mining and remote sensing, as well as for pollination and agricultural applications.

The Flinders University lab was already surprised by the hoverflies’ responses to target movement, which raises even more questions about how these animals can perform optimally despite having small brains and compound eyes with low resolution.

“We know that hoverflies are very sensitive to movement. So if you understand how they visualize the world through the way they fly and position their bodies to benefit from their choices, we can better understand why they are so efficient at what they do “, he says to Professor Nordström.

While the Flinders Hoverfly Laboratory will study insects’ responses to stimuli in a confined space on a screen, the Macquarie University team, led by chief investigator Professor Barron, will compare free-flying honeybee flight patterns with a separate group of bees that make one one for flying Aircraft trained are specific target.

“The ability to train bees and then determine how to fly to a specified destination enables us to understand whether they are adjusting their trajectory if, for example, a flower is harder to see,” says Professor Baron, ARC Future Fellow at Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University.



Nicholas, S and Nordström, K (2020) Persistent Burning and Adaptation in Optically Flow Sensitive Descending Neurons Curr Biol 30 (14): P2739-2742.E2

Nicholas, S, Leibbrandt, R and Nordström, K (2020) Visual Motion Sensitivity in Descending Neurons in the Hover Fly J Comp Physiol A 206 (2): 149-163

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