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Fruit Flies, Fighter Jets Use Similar Evasive Tactics When Attacked

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the talk-to-me-goose dept.

The Military 65

vinces99 writes: "When startled by predators, tiny fruit flies respond like fighter jets – employing screaming-fast banked turns to evade attacks. Researchers at the University of Washington used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of flies after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator (abstract). 'We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and which is faster than we ever imagined.' In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times, said Florian Muijres, a UW postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper. 'These flies normally flap their wings 200 times a second and, in almost a single wing beat, the animal can reorient its body to generate a force away from the threatening stimulus and then continues to accelerate,' he said."

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Anyone (5, Funny)

mingot (665080) | about 7 months ago | (#46727913)

Anyone who has ever had these little bastards in their house could have told you how good they are at evading predators.

Re:Anyone (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728135)

I especially hate when you are about to nail them mid air and they release decoy flares.
That shit burns!

Re:Anyone (5, Funny)

ByteSlicer (735276) | about 7 months ago | (#46728473)

Still, we're lucky they aren't carrying any Stingers.

Re:Anyone (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46729105)

It would actually be interesting to see if, given suitable advances in the design and construction of biomimetic robots, low-speed-but-lightweight-and-crazy-maneuverable becomes a viable strategy (presumably as a complement to a very high speed arsenal). Something with the maneuverability of a fly(especially a fly that also has a few small jets for bursts of thrust on maneuvers that exceed what its wings can provide) might well be able to walk right past missiles designed to intercept high speed conventional aircraft unless those missiles were minimally dependent on accuracy because of large warheads with lots of shrapnel and AoE. Much less useful against more prosaic rapid-fire-guns and flack; but something designed to hunt fixed wing aircraft could be in for a real surprise.

What's awesome... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 months ago | (#46730029)

...is that something with the brain the size of a fruit fly can discriminate between a predator and a non-predator, and react defensively.

We really need to figure out how brains work, lol.

Re:What's awesome... (1)

mikael (484) | about 7 months ago | (#46731077)

I'm not sure they can discriminate between a predator and non-predator. They go by smell to find food and partners. Just about anything that is a dark shadow or moves relative to the background is a potential predator - either they get squished or eaten,

They do vision by a method called "optic flow". Imagine everything you see is projected onto a hemispherical dome (like one of those IMAX theaters). The only way you can tell how the camera is moving is whether the picture rotates around a single point, a particular area of the picture gets larger or smaller and any combination of the two. How quickly different parts of the picture move tells them how near it is.

Re:What's awesome... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 7 months ago | (#46731859)

Imagine everything you see is projected onto a hemispherical dome

Everything *we* see is put on our retina upside down and with a hole in it, and gets really crappy at the edges. Brainz. No wonder zombies like 'em. :)

Re:What's awesome... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46732851)

We really need to figure out how brains work, lol.

Or we just need to figure out how to maintain a blob of brain tissue for a long period... presumably you'd use a quorum of brains and have them vote on an action before you took it, majority rules to keep that instinctive speed

Re:Anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46730187)

Yea, but their tiny little chaff always disrupts my wi-fi, so I prefer the flares.

Re:Anyone (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 7 months ago | (#46728189)

Yes, but they're also quite deaf. They seem oblivious to the vacuum cleaner. I've seen some fat, stupid fruit flies resting on my kitchen counter that *stay put* as their wings start to bend from the suction... Then, womp! down the hose and that's that.

Re:Anyone (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46729147)

I'm not sure if they are 'deaf' (and if they aren't, how much of their sensitivity-to-vibrations-in-fluid is actually 'hearing' and how much is 'touch' with their little sensory hairs) or if their range of stereotyped behaviors doesn't include predators that work by suction. There are some aquatic predators that are suction hunters, presumably becaues the fluid is denser; but nothing terrestrial comes to mind. If they evolved in absense of suction attacks, they presumably either are encountering something outside their experience, or running their protocols for high wind, when the vacuum cleaner attacks.

The little bastards are brutally well optimized; but don't seem to have much general-purpose-cognition grafted on so their utility in the face of novelty is likely very, very, low.

Re:Anyone (1)

mikael (484) | about 7 months ago | (#46731091)

They are sensitive to sudden positive high-pressure air flow; flapping of a wing, motion of a bird. A continuous negative high-pressure air flow won't activate them.

Oh yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728191)

And that is precisely why I use this exact same maneuver to avoid my mother-in-law.

Re:Anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728199)

Anyone who has ever had these little bastards in their house could have told you how good they are at evading predators.

Unlike you I have no interest in eating fruit flies and I find they are very easy to kill. The problems is they seem to reproduce even faster. I guess that's good for your household predators.

Re:Anyone (1)

formfeed (703859) | about 7 months ago | (#46728821)

Anyone who has ever had these little bastards in their house ...

.. like in Virginia Beach [bbc.co.uk] ?

Re:Anyone (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46729403)

Actually, my spiders don't have problems catching and eating them. Unless you meant MQ-1 Predators, that is. I've never observed a fly trying to evade those.

Although (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46727931)

"We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes"

Almost as fast as a politician during an election campaign.

Re:Although (3, Insightful)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about 7 months ago | (#46728009)

Why are politicians similar to flies?

They both eat shit and bother people.

(rimshot)

Re:Although (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46729123)

Why are politicians dissimilar to flies?

Sadly, none of a flies predators seem interested in politicians.

Check the slight angle change just after the roll (4, Informative)

wherrera (235520) | about 7 months ago | (#46727977)

There is a variable angle change just after the initial turn away from the threat that allows the fly to be unpredictable. Otherwise the predator can predict the fly will evade directly away and anticipate where the fly will be. Very clever.

Crazy Ivan (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#46728733)

They always go to starboard in the bottom half of the hour.

reverse that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728027)

I think the fruit flies have prior art by a wide margin.

Don't reverse that (1)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 7 months ago | (#46728097)

It's an analogy between two things, not a patent application.

It's normal for the thing you're talking about to be mentioned first and said to be like the more commonly known thing. Reversing it would have people thinking that you're talking about jet fighters for the rest of the paragraph.

Re:Don't reverse that (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 7 months ago | (#46730605)

It was a joke, not a serious comment.

and yet they can't avoid Apple Cider Vinegar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728033)

fascinating

Re:and yet they can't avoid Apple Cider Vinegar (2)

srussia (884021) | about 7 months ago | (#46728615)

and yet they can't avoid Apple Cider Vinegar

Give them time to evolve a defence against the Reality Distortion Field.

Flies need all the speed they can muster... (1)

ggraham412 (1492023) | about 7 months ago | (#46728039)

The flies need all the speed they can muster, to evade the even more deadly dead cat helicopter [youtube.com] .

A direct comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728043)

Now with more Kenny Loggins. [youtubedoubler.com]

Are you kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728079)

Fruit Flies, Fighter Jets Use Similar Evasive Tactics When Attacked

I've never seen a fighter jet flap it's wings like that...

Re:Are you kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46730195)

>> Fruit Flies, Fighter Jets Use Similar Evasive Tactics When Attacked
> I've never seen a fighter jet flap it's wings like that...

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tactics [wiktionary.org] you're welcome.

Re:Are you kidding me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46731107)

My favorite flight simulator maneuver was to roll 90 degrees and then move the plane as if it were going to do a climb. Hate to imagine what the G-force of what would have been in real life.

Clint Eastwood in "FruitFlyFox" (2)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about 7 months ago | (#46728091)

Dr. Baronovich: "You must think in Fruit Fly."

Re:Clint Eastwood in "FruitFlyFox" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728323)

Sadly, Major Mitchell Gant perished when he flew his fighter jet into a pile of shit.

Re:Clint Eastwood in "FruitFlyFox" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728469)

Sadly, Major Mitchell Gant perished when he flew his fighter jet into a pile of shit.

You sure that wasn't Biff Tannen?

Re:Clint Eastwood in "FruitFlyFox" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728573)

He said "fly" not "McFly"...

Re:Clint Eastwood in "FruitFlyFox" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46733385)

"Into the garbage pile, fly boy!"

Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (5, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | about 7 months ago | (#46728105)

It sounds like they simply described the fly turning directly away from the predator and running, which is NOT what a fighter jet does (unless they just want to be shot down by a missile). At least, not unless they were already outside of their range (at that point, running is the best strategy).

A fighter jet would make a sharp turn TOWARDS the attacker so as to cross his path at a sharp angle, which maximizes the velocity difference between them (velocity is a vector, and they are rapidly closing at an angle). This maximizes the amount of delta-V a missile would have to apply to intercept the aircraft, and in the event of a gunshot it maximizes the amount of lead angle that would need to be used (which is very difficult to pull off). Basically you try to ruin their opportunity to fire on you, so that you can get into a dogfight and hopefully get an opportunity to fire at them.

See something bad and run away is a very intuitive strategy, and it probably makes a lot of sense in nature where predators have to make physical contact to hurt you. In a world of weapons where things like lead angles and enfilading fire come into play the optimum strategy may not be what a rabbit does when it sees a cat.

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728297)

Actually, I think the limit of the analogy was that both fruit flies and fighter jets use banked turns during evasive maneuvers. A banked turn is an obvious choice for a fighter jet, but when you get down to the size of a fruit fly, the aerodynamics are different and so it's interesting that this is still a preferred turning strategy.

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about 7 months ago | (#46728409)

Actually, I think the limit of the analogy was that both fruit flies and fighter jets use banked turns during evasive maneuvers. A banked turn is an obvious choice for a fighter jet, but when you get down to the size of a fruit fly, the aerodynamics are different and so it's interesting that this is still a preferred turning strategy.

I wouldn't take it for granted, but it makes a lot of sense in basic physics. Normally anything that flies has to produce a lift force directed upwards to counteract gravity. If you just turn it on its side the exact same force causes it to turn. So, while the wings could move in lots of odd ways, banking is a really simple solution to the problem of turning.

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 7 months ago | (#46728465)

Makes sense to me - the primary function of the wings is to provide lift "up" - so for a more effective turn you pivot so that the maneuver is always "up" before you execute.

The analogy to fighter jets is just hyperbole (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46730339)

The proof is in the phrase "[they] flap their wings ...". Unless we've developed fighting ornithopters, and we haven't, then comparison is absurd. They are both subject to aeronautical forces and physics. That's what they share, and that's about it.

Unless the author is suggesting that fruit flies have developed air-to-air weapons? Or that we thought fruit flies under threat adopt the strategy "straight, steady and level, that's how we'll get through this!"

They have got one flaw though (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 7 months ago | (#46728561)

"There's a bunch of fighter jets in my pickled cucumbers!"

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 months ago | (#46729045)

Check the list of agencies sponsoring the research. This is just a little game you have to play to do research in the US.

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46732219)

I've noticed pigeons flying at an angle towards upcoming danger (such as cars). And in wilderness shows with predator prey situations you see the same thing, prey will run towards the predator, so the predator needs to spent time and energy reversing its direction and overcoming its inertia.

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46733081)

Deer apparently do that too, except they fail at avoiding the threat.

Squirrels are even better. They run halfway across the road, reverse course to throw off the attacker, then reverse again and end up right under the front tire.

Re:Are we sure it is JUST like a fighter jet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46733243)

Moose will turn round and face off any predator that makes a loud noise. This strategy works well with other mammals, but doesn't work with diesel train engines with cargo.

Awesome! (1)

AioKits (1235070) | about 7 months ago | (#46728197)

Finally, an excuse to play Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins when I try and swat the lil bastards!

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728781)

Maverick Fly - "I feel the need, the need, for speed!!!!"

Peppy Hare to Fly McClure (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 7 months ago | (#46728211)

In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times, said Florian Muijres

"Do a barrel roll!"

Re:Peppy Hare to Fly McClure (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 7 months ago | (#46728235)

Damn autocorrect. "McCloud", not McClure.

Fly McClure? "Hi, I'm Fly McCulre. You may remember me from such vermin-borne illnesses as cholera and anthrax."

Sigh.

So what this is telling me is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728263)

That I can seriously curb the fighter jet population by filling an Olympic sized swimming pool with of vinegar and a box of detergent to break the surface tension?

I always thought... (3, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 7 months ago | (#46728287)

...fruit flies like bananas. I stand corrected.

Re:I always thought... (2)

Plumpaquatsch (2701653) | about 7 months ago | (#46729389)

...fruit flies like bananas. I stand corrected.

More proof Marx was wrong!

Re:I always thought... (1)

grep -v '.*' * (780312) | about 7 months ago | (#46729515)

...fruit flies like bananas. I stand corrected.

If *I* saw a giant banana with teeth flying towards me, I'd probably turn and run too.

Re:I always thought... (1)

tverbeek (457094) | about 7 months ago | (#46731339)

Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.

New Flash (1)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 7 months ago | (#46728291)

When shit gets attacked it tries to get out of harms way. Thanks Slashdot. Now I know.

Wow... (1)

nashv (1479253) | about 7 months ago | (#46728441)

Who knew that the best thing to do when something dangerous was coming at you was to get out of its way as fast as possible...

It's cool that they observed the fly behaviour...but it's not the most deeply insightful finding.

Don't paint your house yellow (1)

formfeed (703859) | about 7 months ago | (#46728641)

It will attract fighter jets.

Fly voice (1)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#46728657)

"Too close for missiles, switching to guns!"

Maverick (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 7 months ago | (#46728675)

Good thing they didn't try to perform a split-S; that would have had Charlie all over them. Everyone knows it's the last thing you should do.

How alike are they *really*? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 7 months ago | (#46728823)

Do they scream out cliches like "I can't shake 'im" and "I got a bogey on my six!"? And, do they have ambiguously gay volleyball matches after a sweaty dogfight?

How To Kill A Fly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46728855)

You don't kill them in midair. Wait for them to land and then aim a hand clap starting at their level and ending slightly above them, they instinctively take flight upwards and die.

Also had a dog that used to corner them by going right,left,right ... and eat them. Guess that also works.

Blink Speed (1)

mbo42 (1161817) | about 7 months ago | (#46730023)

"... in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes" 1/2 a second to blink?! or is the fly actually quicker than one-hundredth of a second?

Re:Blink Speed (1)

mbo42 (1161817) | about 7 months ago | (#46730079)

... if the image in the article is a real one, from the 7500 frames per second camera, it looks like the turn may be completed in less than one-thousandth of a second. That makes the 1/50th of a blink sound better.

Re:Blink Speed (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about 7 months ago | (#46732739)

"... in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes" 1/2 a second to blink?!

You are ignoring the "less than" part. And as far as I can find, typical human blink duration is roughly 400 milliseconds [cam.ac.uk]

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