Brief Communications

Nature 405, 756 (15 June 2000) | doi:10.1038/35015677

Insect perception: Do cockroaches 'know' about fluid dynamics?

D. Rinberg & H. Davidowitz

Animals use their senses to extract information from the world around them, so they need to be able to gauge the physical properties of their environment in order to build up an accurate perception of it. For example, a bat needs to 'know' the velocity of sound to estimate how far away an object is, although input to a sensory system may often exploit more complicated properties than this. Here we measure the response by the wind-sensing system of the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) to a complex hydrodynamic flow. We find that the insect's interneurons relay crucial information about the wind's spectral properties, which may warn it of approaching predators.