The neuronal basis of insect prey capture: Dragons vs Tigers


Thursday, November 17, 2011
Redfield Auditorium - 12:00 Noon
Dr. Paloma Gonzalez Bellido
Postdoctoral Scientist, MBL

The compound eyes of insects have a lens for each photoreceptor unit. Thus, for an insect to obtain high visual resolution, the number of lenses must increase, resulting in a large eye. Large eyes are energetically costly and heavy, so a large body is needed to carry them. For these reasons the prevailing dogma states that only large insects, with large eyes, can excel as visual predators. For example, dragonflies. This is contradicted by Killer flies (Coenosia attenuata). Killer flies (4mm in body length) are sit and wait predators that catch fruit flies (3mm long) in midflight.  Can killer flies catch fruit flies because they see better? If so… is body size the actual limiting factor for visual resolution in insects?  Why aren’t killer flies the size of large dragonflies?   We have used morphology, electrophysiology and high speed videos to answer these questions.