Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr.Jamie Theobald

Abstract

To perform daily flight tasks, insects rely heavily on their visual perception of a dynamic environment. They must process visual signals quickly and accurately and update their behavior. Flies are vulnerable to environmental disturbances, such as gusts of wind blowing them off course, but they may use the altered visual field to compensate and regain their original course. In studies using Drosophila melanogaster, it has been shown that their corrective responses can be analyzed by measuring changes in their wing beats. By enclosing a tethered fly in a cuboidal visual arena displaying a computerized optic flow field, it is possible to calculate the change in wing beat amplitudes from an infrared shadow of its wings using photodiodes and a custom wing beat analyzer. In this experiment, manipulations ofthe optic flow field are used to create a field where points have varying relative forward speed, to study how the insect performs corrective maneuvers. The results show that Drosophila have a stronger corrective response to the quickly moving, apparently near points compared to the slower moving, apparently distant points. This implies the flies are distinguishing points based on their relative speeds, inferring distance, and adjusting their corrective actions with this information.

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