Fruit flies explore their environment using a series of straight flight paths punctuated by rapid 90° body-saccades. Some of these manoeuvres avoid obstacles in their path. But many others seem to appear spontaneously. Are the spontaneous flight paths really random, do they serve any real purpose?
Armed with a computer video tracking system and an array of mathematical techniques the two researchers have revealed how the flight patterns of starved fruit flies constitute an optimal scale-free searching strategy ?like the fractal patterns of a snowflake, a fly flight path appears similar whether viewed up close, or from a distance.
The researchers also found that searching is intermittent, such that flies actively search by making tight turns, and fly straight some distance to begin searching again. Scale-free movement patterns have been found in diverse animals including zooplankton, wandering albatrosses, jackals, and even human hunter-gathers. Intermittent searchers include octopi, graylings, and mating crickets.
Andy Reynolds says, "Our results with freely flying Drosophila appear to be the first reported example of searching behaviour that is both scale-free and intermittent. This suggests that these behaviours are not part of two different searching strategies, but rather represent a single very effective and perhaps widely adopted strategy." Mark Frye believes, "This result is particularly exciting because it suggests a unified theory for one of the most critical behaviour animals exhibit ?foraging for food."
The next step will be toward integrating these results with the neurobiology
of fly flight to better understand how these tiny animals are so successful at crashing our dinner parties. The research will appear in the April 4th issue of the international, peer-reviewed, open-access online journal PLoS ONE.
Source:Public Library of Science
Related biology news :
1. Flies on speed offer insight into the roles of dopamine in sleep and arousal
2. Sleepless for science: Flies show link between sleep, immune system in Stanford study
3. Penguins waddle but they dont fall down, UH researchers say
4. Nearly half of people who need cholesterol treatment dont get it
5. Study: Paramedics save more lives when they dont follow the rules
6. Even fish dont swim well when theyre young!
7. One-third of adults with diabetes still dont know they have it
8. Survival of the selfless - scientists find cheats dont always prosper
9. Why mice dont get cancer of the retina
10. Why dont all moles progress to melanoma?
11. New cigarette designs dont offer lower predicted cancer risks