Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Visual orientation in motion-blind flies is an operant behaviour

Abstract

Insect visual orientation is mostly considered as a stimulus-response phenomenon1,2. This view may be challenged in Drosophila melanogaster by genetic dissection, as we show here. When suspended in a fixed position in a flight simulator3, which transforms torque into angular velocity of the panorama, Drosophila establishes a state of zero net rotation of the panorama (optomotor balance4). The genetic variant rol sol, with greatly reduced optic lobes, is entirely motion-blind but can respond with turning manoeuvres to the position of landmarks. Mutant flies maintain optomotor balance but do so irrespective of the sign of the visual feedback in the simulator, that is, whether angular velocity is inversely or directly proportional to torque. Using the amount, but not the direction, of pattern motion the flies stabilize the panorama by trying out which value of torque has the desired effect. We conclude that operant behaviour is a basic constituent of visual orientation in flies.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Frankel, G. S. & Gunn, D. L. The Orientation of Animals (Dover, New York, 1961).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Wehner, R. in Handbook of Sensory Physiology Vol. VII/6c, 287–616 (Springer, Heidelberg, 1981).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Reichardt, W. & Wenking, H. Naturwissenschaften 56, 424–425 (1969).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Heisenberg, M. & Wolf, R. Vision in Drosophila (Springer, Heidelberg, 1984).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. Götz, K. G. J. comp. PhysioL 99, 468–475 (1975).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Reichardt, W. & Poggio, T. Q. Rev. Biophys. 9, 311–375 (1976).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Fischbach, K. F. & Heisenberg, M. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 78, 1105–1109 (1981).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Götz, K. G. Verh. dt. zooL Ges., 83–99 (1983).

  9. Adler, J. Scient. Am. 234, Pt. 4 40–47 (1976).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Metzger, W. Gesetze des Sehens 2nd edn (Kramer, Frankfurt, 1953).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Wolf, R., Heisenberg, M. Visual orientation in motion-blind flies is an operant behaviour. Nature 323, 154–156 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1038/323154a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/323154a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing