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J Acoust Soc Am. 2006 Sep;120(3):1546-9.

The ability of the parasitoid fly Ormia ochracea to distinguish sounds in the vertical plane.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Behavior Mudd Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853, USA.


The parasitic fly Ormia ochracea localizes its host, field crickets, by homing in on their calling song. Previous phonotactic studies indicate that their sound localization ability in azimuth is extraordinarily acute, but the fly's ability to localize the elevation of sound sources has not been tested to date. Here we show that in a freely-walking closed-loop Y-maze task elevational performance is well above chance, but slightly below the fly's performance in azimuth. Immobilizing the head or the halteres (sensory organs of balance) slightly lowered elevational discrimination, but performance was still well above chance. Because ormiine ears are thought to be symmetric and the pure-tone models of a cricket's call used in these experiments contained little to no spectral bandwidth, additional studies will be needed to elucidate the underlying cues. Nonetheless, it is clear that while walking, Ormia flies are capable of distinguishing sound sources that differ only in elevation.

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