Date of Award

Summer 8-4-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

Abstract

To navigate effectively in three-dimensional space, flying insects must approximate distances to nearby objects. Humans are able to use an array of cues to guide depth perception in the visual world. However, some of these cues are not available to insects that are constrained by their rigid eyes and relatively small body size. Flying fruit flies can use motion parallax to gauge the distance of nearby objects, but using this cue becomes a less effective strategy as objects become more remote. Humans are able to infer depth across far distances by comparing the angular distance of an object to the horizon. This study tested if flying fruit flies, like humans, use the relative position of the horizon as a depth cue. Fruit flies in tethered flight were stimulated with a virtual environment that displayed vertical bars of varying elevation relative to a horizon, and their tracking responses were recorded. This study showed that tracking responses of the flies were strongly increased by reducing the apparent elevation of the bar against the horizon, indicating that fruit flies may be able to assess the distance of far off objects in the natural world by comparing them against a visual horizon.

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