TitleCharacterizing long-range search behavior in Diptera using complex 3D virtual environments.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsKaushik PKumar, Renz M, Olsson SB
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Date Published2020 Jun 02

The exemplary search capabilities of flying insects have established them as one of the most diverse taxa on Earth. However, we still lack the fundamental ability to quantify, represent, and predict trajectories under natural contexts to understand search and its applications. For example, flying insects have evolved in complex multimodal three-dimensional (3D) environments, but we do not yet understand which features of the natural world are used to locate distant objects. Here, we independently and dynamically manipulate 3D objects, airflow fields, and odor plumes in virtual reality over large spatial and temporal scales. We demonstrate that flies make use of features such as foreground segmentation, perspective, motion parallax, and integration of multiple modalities to navigate to objects in a complex 3D landscape while in flight. We first show that tethered flying insects of multiple species navigate to virtual 3D objects. Using the apple fly , we then measure their reactive distance to objects and show that these flies use perspective and local parallax cues to distinguish and navigate to virtual objects of different sizes and distances. We also show that apple flies can orient in the absence of optic flow by using only directional airflow cues, and require simultaneous odor and directional airflow input for plume following to a host volatile blend. The elucidation of these features unlocks the opportunity to quantify parameters underlying insect behavior such as reactive space, optimal foraging, and dispersal, as well as develop strategies for pest management, pollination, robotics, and search algorithms.

Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
PubMed ID32424090
PubMed Central IDPMC7275712