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News from Nov 27, 2019

Heading choices of flying Drosophila under changing angles of polarized light.


Many navigating insects include the celestial polarization pattern as an additional visual cue to orient their travels. Spontaneous orientation responses of both walking and flying fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to linearly polarized light have previously been demonstrated. Using newly designed modular flight arenas consisting entirely of off-the-shelf parts and 3D-printed components we present individual flying flies with a slow and continuous rotational change in the incident angle of linear polarization. Under such open-loop conditions, single flies choose arbitrary headings with respect to the angle of polarized light and show a clear tendency to maintain those chosen headings for several minutes, thereby adjusting their course to the slow rotation of the incident stimulus. Importantly, flies show the tendency to maintain a chosen heading even when two individual test periods under a linearly polarized stimulus are interrupted by an epoch of unpolarized light lasting several minutes. Finally, we show that these behavioral responses are wavelength-specific, existing under polarized UV stimulus while being absent under polarized green light. Taken together, these findings provide further evidence supporting Drosophila’s abilities to use celestial cues for visually guided navigation and course correction.

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