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Sci Rep. 2013;3:2614. doi: 10.1038/srep02614.

Vision and air flow combine to streamline flying honeybees.

Author information

1] Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland. Brisbane, QLD, 4072, Australia [2] ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, The Australian National University. Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia.


Insects face the challenge of integrating multi-sensory information to control their flight. Here we study a 'streamlining' response in honeybees, whereby honeybees raise their abdomen to reduce drag. We find that this response, which was recently reported to be mediated by optic flow, is also strongly modulated by the presence of air flow simulating a head wind. The Johnston's organs in the antennae were found to play a role in the measurement of the air speed that is used to control the streamlining response. The response to a combination of visual motion and wind is complex and can be explained by a model that incorporates a non-linear combination of the two stimuli. The use of visual and mechanosensory cues increases the strength of the streamlining response when the stimuli are present concurrently. We propose this multisensory integration will make the response more robust to transient disturbances in either modality.

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