High-speed video captures fruit fly escape maneuver

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What does a tiny fruit fly have in common with an F-22 Raptor fighter jet? More than you might think if you’ve ever been amazed at how the little pests avoid the flyswatter. Scientists using video cameras to track a fly’s aerial maneuvers found that the insect employs astonishingly quick banked turns to evade predators, much like the ones executed by a fighter jet to elude an enemy.

The study, published yesterday in the journal Science, shows that fruit flies are able to change course in less than a hundredth of a second.  The flies produced impressive escape responses, almost instantaneously rolling their bodies like a military jet in a banked turn to steer away. While executing the turn, the flies showed that they could roll on their sides by upwards of 90 degrees, sometimes flying almost upside down.

Video courtesy of Florian Muijres, Dickinson Lab, University of Washington

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