Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Staying the course: Fruit flies employ stabilizer reflex to recover from midflight stumbles

Date:
March 18, 2010
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Observing the aerial maneuvers of fruit flies, researchers have uncovered how the insects -- when disturbed by sharp gusts of wind -- right themselves and stay on course. Fruit flies use an automatic stabilizer reflex that helps them recover with precision from midflight stumbles.

To study how fruit flies recover from in-flight disturbances, researchers glued magnetic pins to the insects' backs and zapped them with a magnetic field. This fly has a 1.5 mm pin on its back and is held in place by the tip of a sewing needle.
Credit: Wang, Cohen and Guckenheimer labs

Observing the aerial maneuvers of fruit flies, Cornell University researchers have uncovered how the insects -- when disturbed by sharp gusts of wind -- right themselves and stay on course. Fruit flies use an automatic stabilizer reflex that helps them recover with precision from midflight stumbles, according to observations published online March 1, 2010 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Learning from the biological world could help the mechanical world, as the research on insect flight could help engineers simplify the design of maneuverable and stable flapping-wing aircraft.

The team led by Cornell doctoral candidate Leif Ristroph made its observations with three high-speed (about 8,000 frames per second) video cameras that recorded every slight motion of the insects. Ristroph is a student in the laboratory of Itai Cohen, assistant professor of physics.

To unlock the secrets of flight stability in these flies, the researchers devised a way to trip them up in midflight. They glued tiny magnets to the backs of flies sedated by a dunk into ice water. When the insect came to and flew around, the researchers turned on magnetic fields that zapped the magnet, nudging the insect off its flight path.

The researchers found that the insects paddled their wings to steer while flying, delicately adjusting the inclination of their wings by miniscule amounts -- as little as 9 degrees -- at a remarkable rate of 250 times a second.

Thus, the insects took the disturbance in stride, quickly paddling their wings so that they could recover their original posture with pinpoint accuracy. All this is possible because of two small, vibrating sense organs called halteres, which millions of years ago evolved from what used to be a pair of hind wings. Mathematical models show how the halteres ultimately tell the wings to paddle.

Without flight, life as humanity knows it would not be possible. Cohen says: "The ability to control flight profoundly changed the evolution of our planet. About 350 million years ago, the world was devoid of the many trees and flowers of today. Once insects figured out how to maneuver through the air, these pollinators enabled the Earth to blossom with life."

The other authors: Jane Wang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; and John Guckenheimer, professor of mathematics; Attila Bergou, Cornell Ph.D. '09; Katherine Coumes '11, Ristroph's brother Gunnar Ristroph, and Gordon Berman Ph.D. '09.

The National Science Foundation supported the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Anne Ju. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Leif Ristroph, Attila Bergou, Gunnar Ristroph, Katherine Coumes, Gordon Berman, John Guckenheimer, Z. Jane Wang, and Itai Cohen. Discovering the flight auto-stabilizer of fruit flies by inducing aerial stumbles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 1, 2010

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Staying the course: Fruit flies employ stabilizer reflex to recover from midflight stumbles." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301151933.htm>.
Cornell University. (2010, March 18). Staying the course: Fruit flies employ stabilizer reflex to recover from midflight stumbles. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301151933.htm
Cornell University. "Staying the course: Fruit flies employ stabilizer reflex to recover from midflight stumbles." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100301151933.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Air Force: $4.2B Saved from Grounding A-10s

Air Force: $4.2B Saved from Grounding A-10s

AP (Apr. 23, 2014) Speaking about the future of the United States Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh says the choice to divest the A-10 fleet was logical and least impactful. (April 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jets Fuel Jump in Boeing's Revenue

Jets Fuel Jump in Boeing's Revenue

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 23, 2014) A sharp rise in revenue for commercial jets offset a decline in Boeing's defense business. And a big increase in deliveries lifted profitability. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins