News - August 22, 2016

The acrobatics of the fruit fly (video)

Roelof Kleis

Fruit flies are, as ugly and annoying as they may be, acrobats in the air. Researcher Florian Muijres knows how they pull their stunts, he explains in a special of the Philosophical Transactions B.

Muijres is originally a aeronautical engineer. His fascination for the flying skills of insects, birds and bats is why he did his research. Animals fly a lot better than humans. After he got his Ph.D. (Lund University, flight behaviours of birds and bats) he continued his research in the United States (University of Washington), where he investigated the aerial acrobatics of the fruit fly. A review was made about the research for the special issue Moving in a moving medium: new perspectives on flight.

Muijres en Michael Dickinson of Caltech describe in the article how fruit flies can manoeuvre and control their bodies during flight and what the role is of all kinds of sensory information. They learned a lot about the flight paterns of the beasts from filming them with high speed camera's and creating slow motion films. Fruit flies flap their wings around 200 times per second. This makes up for beautiful images seen as in the video below ( speed reduced 300 times) in which a fruit fly is dodging a shadow, which is outside the videoframe.

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Muijres moved to Washington two years ago and works at the Chair Group Experimental Zoology to research the flight of the mosquito. Mosquitos flap their wings a lot faster than fruit flies: a 1000 times per second. Muijres used three high speed cameras which 'captured' the mosquito with a maximum of 13.500 images per second. By placing the three camera's perpendicular from eachother he was able to create a threedimensional image of the flight of the mosquito.

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