Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Blinded by speed, tiger beetles use antennae to 'see' while running

Date:
February 11, 2014
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Speed is blinding. Just ask the tiger beetle: This predatory insect has excellent sight, but when it chases prey, it runs so fast it can no longer see where it’s going.

Tiger beetle (Cicindela hirticollis) eating.
Credit: Image courtesy of Cornell University

Speed is blinding. Just ask the tiger beetle: This predatory insect has excellent sight, but when it chases prey, it runs so fast it can no longer see where it's going.

Cornell University researchers have discovered that, unlike insects that wave their "feelers" around to acquire information, tiger beetles rigidly hold their antennae directly in front of them to mechanically sense their environments and avoid obstacles while running, according to a study published online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The findings raise questions about strategies used by other fast animals, such as birds of prey and some fish, to sense their environments when speed blinds. The research also has implications for autonomous vehicles that could use fixed antennae to detect obstacles. "For an insect with really good vision that is active in the daytime normally, you would think it would not rely on antennae for sensing its environment," said Cole Gilbert, Cornell professor of entomology and the paper's senior author. Daniel Zurek, a postdoctoral researcher in Gilbert's lab, is the paper's first author.

"It has evolved important mechano-sensing behavior while running because it runs so fast," Gilbert added.

In an earlier paper, Gilbert reported that tiger beetles run so fast, their eyes cannot capture enough light to form images of their prey. Therefore, the insects stop for just milliseconds to relocate prey, then start running again.

Gilbert and Zurek sought to learn how the running insects negotiate obstacles in their habitat, such as crevasses or grass stems, and what role their characteristically forward antennae play. To test this, the researchers set up a runway with a hurdle: In one experiment normal tiger beetles (of the species Cicindela hirticollis) ran the track and negotiated the hurdle, tilting their bodies up when their antennae touched the hurdle; in a second experiment, the researchers painted over the beetles' eyes and found these blind beetles responded similarly. In the third test, they clipped the antennae of sighted beetles, and the insects smacked right into the hurdle.

The experiment revealed that for fast-moving tiger beetles, "eyes are not sufficient or necessary to avoid obstacles," Gilbert said. "The antennae are held extremely rigid with the tips 1.5 millimeters off the ground, so they would potentially pick up any discontinuity in the surface."

Gilbert questions how peregrine falcons and predatory fish compensate for blurry sight while speeding towards prey, potential research areas that no one has tested. The current study may provide a model for new questions. It's possible, for example, that motion-blind fish perhaps employ their lateral line, sense organs found in aquatic vertebrates used to detect movement and vibration in water.

Also, autonomous vehicles could employ protruding antennae to sense their surroundings, as some of the first robots were fitted with, said Gilbert. "It would be cheaper than cameras," he said. "For some applications, an antennae might be a solution, it is certainly one that worked evolutionarily for tiger beetles."

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Editor's Note: A related video is available at www.cornell.edu/video/speedy-beetles-use-antennae-to-see


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. D. B. Zurek, C. Gilbert. Static antennae act as locomotory guides that compensate for visual motion blur in a diurnal, keen-eyed predator. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1779): 20133072 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3072

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Blinded by speed, tiger beetles use antennae to 'see' while running." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211113704.htm>.
Cornell University. (2014, February 11). Blinded by speed, tiger beetles use antennae to 'see' while running. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211113704.htm
Cornell University. "Blinded by speed, tiger beetles use antennae to 'see' while running." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211113704.htm (accessed August 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

AFP (Aug. 1, 2014) The discovery of a bear cub in the Pyrenees mountains made headlines in April 2014. Despire several attempts to find the animal's mother, the cub remained alone. Now, the Pyrenees Conservation Foundation has constructed an enclosure. Duration: 00:31 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Health officials are working to fast-track a vaccine — the West-African Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700. But why didn't we already have one? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Previous studies have made the link between birth control and breast cancer, but the latest makes the link to high-estrogen oral contraceptives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

AP (Aug. 1, 2014) A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard. The 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen whale fossils known to exist. (Aug. 1) Video provided by AP
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