Fruit Flies Can Manuever Like Fighter Jets to Evade Predators

Posted on April 12, 2014

Fruit flies barrel roll


University of Washington researchers have determined that tiny fruit flies, which are about the size of a sesame seed, can maneuver like fighter jets to evade predators. The researchers used high-speed cameras to record fruit flies performing bank turns at rapid speeds after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator. The flies can roll on their sites 90 degrees or more while in the midst of a banked turn.

Michael Dickinson, UW professor of biology and co-author of the paper published here in Science, says in a statement, "Although they have been described as swimming through the air, tiny flies actually roll their bodies just like aircraft in a banked turn to maneuver away from impending threats. We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and which is faster than we ever imagined."

The video below was captured with high-speed cameras capable of capturing 7,500 frames per second, or 40 frames per wing beat. The footage has been slowed down 300 times. The final segment can be viewed in 3-D with red/cyan glasses. Take a look:



Photo: F Muijres/U of Washington