© The Author(s), 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Current Biology 27 (2017): 854–859, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.01.050.
Our visual system allows us to rapidly identify and intercept a moving object. When this object is far away, we base the trajectory on the target’s location relative to an external frame of reference . This process forms the basis for the constant bearing angle (CBA) model, a reactive strategy that ensures interception since the bearing angle, formed between the line joining pursuer and target (called the range vector) and an external reference line, is held constant [2; 3 ; 4]. The CBA model may be a fundamental and widespread strategy, as it is also known to explain the interception trajectories of bats and fish [5 ; 6]. Here, we show that the aerial attack of the tiny robber fly Holcocephala fusca is consistent with the CBA model. In addition, Holcocephala fusca displays a novel proactive strategy, termed “lock-on” phase, embedded with the later part of the flight. We found the object detection threshold for this species to be 0.13°, enabled by an extremely specialized, forward pointing fovea (∼5 ommatidia wide, interommatidial angle Δφ = 0.28°, photoreceptor acceptance angle Δρ = 0.27°). This study furthers our understanding of the accurate performance that a miniature brain can achieve in highly demanding sensorimotor tasks and suggests the presence of equivalent mechanisms for target interception across a wide range of taxa.
This work was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-15-1-0188 to P.T.G.-B. and K.N. and FA9550-15-1-0068 to D.G.S.), an Isaac Newton Trust/Wellcome Trust ISSF/University of Cambridge Joint Research Grant (097814/Z/11/Z) to P.T.G.-B., a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council David Phillips Fellowship (BBSRC, BB/L024667/1) to T.J.W., a Royal Society International Exchange Scheme grant to P.T.G.-B. (75166), a Swedish Research Council grant (2012-4740) to K.N., and a Shared Equipment Grant from the School of Biological Sciences (University of Cambridge, RG70368).
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