Saccadic flight maneuvers in fruit flies consists of highly stereotypic banked turns

F.T. Muijres, N.A. Iwasaki, M.J. Elzinga, M.H. Dickinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Diptera flight is characterized by straight flight sequences interspersed with fast turns called body saccades. The resulting familiar zigzag flight pattern has been argued to minimize visual motion blur and optimize search behavior. Although straight flight has been studied thoroughly, relatively little is known about the biomechanics of the saccadic turns. Here, we study the aerodynamics and flight kinematics of spontaneously elicited saccadic turns of fruit flies flying freely in a flight arena [1]. Using an array of high-speed cameras, we tracked body and wing kinematics throughout these maneuvers. The body and wing kinematics were extracted using an automated tracking routine; the wing kinematics were replayed on a dynamically-scaled mechanical fruit fly model to study the aerodynamic forces and torques that govern the maneuver. The free-flight experiments show that saccadic turns in fruit flies are highly stereotypic banked turns. To perform the saccadic turn the fly simultaneously modulates three body kinematics parameters: (1) to change heading, the fly modulates body roll and pitch in precise synchrony; (2) to minimize sideslip, it controls body yaw; (3) to maintain weight support and not loose altitude while turning, the fly increases force production. The changes in wingbeat kinematics that control these distinct movements have been determined, and the resulting aerodynamic force and torque were identified by replaying these wingbeat kinematics on the mechanical fly model. 1. Muijres FT, Elzinga MJ, Iwasaki NA, Dickinson MH (2015) Body saccades of Drosophila consist of stereotyped banked turns. J Exp Biol. doi:10.1242/jeb.114280.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAbstracts Book of the SEB Prague 2015
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherSociety for Experimental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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