Fruit flies employ stabilizer reflex to recover from midflight stumbles

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Washington, March 2 (ANI): New observations by scientists indicate that fruit flies use an automatic stabilizer reflex that helps them recover with precision from midflight stumbles.

The aerial maneuvers of fruit flies were observed by Cornell University researchers.

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.

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.

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

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