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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Why of Fly Flying

Armed with a computer video tracking system and an array of mathematical techniques researchers have revealed how the flight patterns of starved fruit flies constitute an optimal scale-free searching strategy – like the fractal patterns of a snowflake, a fly flight path appears similar whether viewed up close, or from a distance.



The researchers also found that searching is intermittent, such that flies actively search by making tight turns, and fly straight some distance to begin searching again. Scale-free movement patterns have been found in diverse animals including zooplankton, wandering albatrosses, jackals, and even human hunter-gathers. Intermittent searchers include octopi, graylings, and mating crickets.

Andy Reynolds says, "Our results with freely flying Drosophila appear to be the first reported example of searching behaviour that is both scale-free and intermittent. This suggests that these behaviours are not part of two different searching strategies, but rather represent a single very effective and perhaps widely adopted strategy." link

Fly on the Windshield:
Free-Flight Odor Tracking in Drosophila Is Consistent with an Optimal Intermittent Scale-Free Search 2007. AM Reynolds and MA Frye. PLoS ONE 2(4): e354.