Research Article

Flies Evade Looming Targets by Executing Rapid Visually Directed Banked Turns

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Science  11 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6180, pp. 172-177
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248955

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Taking Flight

Anyone who has tried to swat a fly knows that their powers of avoidance are impressive. Executing such rapid avoidance requires that the sensory recognition of an approaching threat be translated into evasive movement almost instantaneously. Muijres et al. (p. 172) used high-speed videos and winged robots to show that flies respond to approaching threats by making rapid banked turns initiated through subtle wing changes over just a few wing beats. The rapid nature of the turns suggests the existence of dedicated sensory-motor circuits that allow the flies to respond within a fraction of a second.