Walking Drosophila align with the e-vector of linearly polarized light through directed modulation of angular acceleration
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- Velez, M.M., Wernet, M.F., Clark, D.A. et al. J Comp Physiol A (2014) 200: 603. doi:10.1007/s00359-014-0910-6
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Understanding the mechanisms that link sensory stimuli to animal behavior is a central challenge in neuroscience. The quantitative description of behavioral responses to defined stimuli has led to a rich understanding of different behavioral strategies in many species. One important navigational cue perceived by many vertebrates and insects is the e-vector orientation of linearly polarized light. Drosophila manifests an innate orientation response to this cue (‘polarotaxis’), aligning its body axis with the e-vector field. We have established a population-based behavioral paradigm for the genetic dissection of neural circuits guiding polarotaxis to both celestial as well as reflected polarized stimuli. However, the behavioral mechanisms by which flies align with a linearly polarized stimulus remain unknown. Here, we present a detailed quantitative description of Drosophila polarotaxis, systematically measuring behavioral parameters that are modulated by the stimulus. We show that angular acceleration is modulated during alignment, and this single parameter may be sufficient for alignment. Furthermore, using monocular deprivation, we show that each eye is necessary for modulating turns in the ipsilateral direction. This analysis lays the foundation for understanding how neural circuits guide these important visual behaviors.