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Head Movement of Flies during Visually Guided Flight


MOST visually advanced animals are able to move their eyes relative to the body. This makes vision independent of body movements; in man it enables the eyes to keep the visual world stationary on the retinae, to scan the field of view, and to maintain fixation on moving objects1. The extent to which animals other than vertebrates are able to perform these activities is largely unknown; many, especially arthropods, make body movements tending either to stabilize the visual surroundings2,3 or to cause fixation of objects by the eyes4,5. In a very few cases, however, it has been shown that arthropod eyes may make directed movements independent of the body: examples are the fixation of prey by mantids6 and by salticid spiders7, and compensatory eye movements in a moving visual surround by crabs8 and locusts9. Here I describe the head movements (and therefore, in insects, eye movements) made by blowflies during sustained flight. I show these to be of two kinds: rapid saccadic flicks in which the head takes up a new angle with respect to the visual surroundings, and stabilization movements which keep the angular position of the head almost constant, in spite of body movements of up to 10° in either direction.

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LAND, M. Head Movement of Flies during Visually Guided Flight. Nature 243, 299–300 (1973).

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