Eye movements and target fixation during dragonfly prey-interception flights
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The capture of flying insects by foraging dragonflies is a highly accurate, visually guided behavior. Rather than simply aiming at the prey’s position, the dragonfly aims at a point in front of the prey, so that the prey is intercepted with a relatively straight flight trajectory. To better understand the neural mechanisms underlying this behavior, we used high-speed video to quantify the head and body orientation of dragonflies (female Erythemis simplicicollis flying in an outdoor flight cage) relative to an artificial prey object before and during pursuit. The results of our frame-by-frame analysis showed that during prey pursuit, the dragonfly adjusts its head orientation to maintain the image of the prey centered on the “crosshairs” formed by the visual midline and the dorsal fovea, a high acuity streak that crosses midline at right angles about 60° above the horizon. The visual response latencies to drifting of the prey image are remarkably short, ca. 25 ms for the head and 30 ms for the wing responses. Our results imply that the control of the prey-interception flight must include a neural pathway that takes head position into account.
KeywordsDragonfly Eye movement Flight Image fixation Vision
Target selective descending neurons
This study was supported in part by NSF RUI 0211467 grant to RMO, and by Union College summer research fellowships to RCS and MIC. All experiments complied with the “Principles of animal care”, publication no. 86–23, revised 1985, of the National Institute of Health.
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