Fruit flies with damaged wings can still fly well. Even half a wing is no problem. Using high-speed cameras, Florian Muijres showed how that works. Magazine Resource of Wageningen University & Research reports on this research, executed with special cameras of Shared Research Facilities, in an article on 18 January 2017.
A damaged wing has less lifting capacity. And the remaining capacity is divided asymmetrically. One wing lifts more than the other, resulting in a rotation when the fly rolls to the side of the damaged wing. If the fly fails to act, it will start to roll and will fall to the ground. But that doesn't happen, as shown by the images and analyses of Muijres and his American colleagues at the University of Washington.
On the contrary. Suddenly and seemingly without effort, the fly adjusts its flying behaviour. It seems that the reduced lift capacity is compensated for only by beating faster with the wings. The frequency of beating increases by about 10 percent, according to Muijres. To give an impression of what that means: a normal fruit fly beats its wings about 200 times a second. To measure any differences, you need a high-speed camera.
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This video shows a fruit fly flying with broken wings, recorded with a high-speed camera. Read the accompanying article on Resource.
Camera’s available for all researchers
Special cameras are used for the study of the flight of fruit flies under the microscope. This type of research can be done with the high-speed cameras (3D set-up), provided by Shared Research Facilities Wageningen University & Research. These high-speed cameras are also accessible for use for researchers from other organizations.