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Predatory flies use "homing missile" system to intercept preys mid-air

last modified Oct 17, 2018 11:05 AM
New study by Gonzalez-Bellido lab published on the Journal of the Royal Society Interface sheds light on the underlying system behind predation and navigation in insects

Two species of fly, a killer fly (Coenosia attenuata) and a robber fly (Holcocephala fusca), are miniature predators that fly up from their perch to intercept other insects mid-air. What rule do these two animals employ so that they head to where the target will be, and not where the target is seen? We found that their reaction time is 15 times faster than a human eye blink, and that their predatory behaviour uses exactly the same system that underlies modern homing missiles. These are the first insects shown to be using this system.

Predatory attack of two miniature dipteran species, here seen intercepting a dummy target. Above: Holcocephala fusca. Below: Coenosia attenuata

Reference: Fabian ST, Sumner ME, Wardill TJ, Rossoni S, Gonzalez-Bellido PT (2018), Interception by two predatory fly species is explained by a proportional navigation feedback controller, J. R. Soc. Interface 20180466

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