11. From Flesh Flies to Aerospace Engineering

Cole Gilbert, Entomology, and research team discovered that male flesh flies (Sarcophagidae: Neobellieria bullata), traveling over two meters per second and turning their heads in turret-like motions in sexual pursuit of females, lose sight of their female targets but still manage to catch them. The researchers studied flesh flies in aerial, sexual pursuit using high-speed digital video at 250 frames per second. They determined that although male flesh flies have high-resolution areas in their compound eyes, this high-definition vision is not always needed. The next step is to determine how the turret-like movement contributes to visual guidance. This oddity in vision physiology and neurological processing could help military and aerospace engineers build aircraft and artillery that have improved detection of evasive targets—applying evolutionary animal solutions to engineering problems. The research also trains neuroscientists in understanding the neurobiological basis of animal behavior.

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