How dragonflies are corrected when they fall upside down

How dragonflies are corrected when they fall upside down

How dragonflies are corrected when they fall upside down

Dragonfly recovers from falling upside down to ~ 200 ms using complex wing movement. Credits: Mr. Jane Wang, Cornell University

A trio of researchers, both from Cornell University and the other Howard Hughes Medical Institute, have discovered the means by which dragonflies can be corrected so quickly from an upside-down orientation. In their work published in the journal ScienceJane Wang, James Melfi and Anthony Leonardo describe experiments they performed with flying dragonflies and what they learned about the flight mechanics of the insect.

Dragonflies are flying insects characterized by pairs of transparent wings, a long, slender body and multifaceted complex eyes. They generally appear around lakes and swamps. They are also known for their flexibility in flight, and it was this trait that made researchers wonder about their ability to recover from a scenario in which they are unlikely to find themselves naturally – suddenly falling upside down.

The work included the collection of samples for laboratory study. They started grabbing samples, turning them over and letting them fall. They found that all the samples recovered very quickly – so quickly that the researchers could not monitor the action. They then painted small white dots on the wings and bodies of many specimens and filmed them falling using a high-speed camera. In the slow motion video, they were only able to partially identify what the dragonflies did to turn the right side up.







Dragonfly recovers from falling upside down to ~ 200 ms. The calculation of the straightening maneuver reveals the basic control strategy leading to the rolling maneuver. Credits: Mr. Jane Wang, Cornell University

Undaunted, the researchers used the video to create an electronic 3D model of the dragonflies as they were being corrected. Then they could see exactly what the dragonflies were doing as they fell – squeezing their left and right wings at slightly different angles, forcing their bodies to rotate until they were back on the right side. They noticed that some rolled to the left, while others rolled to the right, but in both cases, the end result was the same – a repeat of the normal flight.

The researchers then wondered how the insects knew they were upside down – to find a possible answer, covered the eyes of many specimens and then turned them over and dropped them – none of the dragonflies could recover, indicating that they were using visual cues for orientation.

How dragonflies are corrected when they fall upside down

Dragonfly recovers from falling upside down to ~ 200 ms. The right-hand maneuver calculation reveals the basic control strategy leading to scroll maneuvering. Credits: Mr. Jane Wang, Cornell University


Dragonflies make upside down reversals to correct themselves


More information:
Mr. Jane Wang et al, Rehabilitation mechanisms in the dragonfly reflex, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126 / science.abg0946

© 2022 Science X Network

Reference: How Dragonflies Are Fixed When They Fall Upside Down (2022, May 13) Retrieved May 14, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-dragonflies-upside.html

This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair transaction for the purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without our written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.