Free flight maneuvers of stalk-eyed flies: do eye-stalks affect aerial turning behavior?

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2007 Oct;193(10):1065-79. doi: 10.1007/s00359-007-0259-1. Epub 2007 Aug 21.


The eyes of stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae) are positioned at the end of rigid peduncles projected laterally from the head. In dimorphic species the eye-stalks of males exceed the eye-stalks of females and can exceed body length. Eye-stalk length is sexually selected in males improving male reproductive success. We tested whether the long eye-stalks have a negative effect on free-flight and aerial turning behavior by analyzing the morphology and free-flight trajectories of male and female Cyrtodiopsis dalmanni. At flight posture the mass-moment-of-inertia for rotation about a vertical axis was 1.49-fold higher in males. Males also showed a 5% increase in wing length compared to females. During free-flight females made larger turns than males (54 +/- 31.4 vs. 49 +/- 36.2 degrees , t test, P < 0.033) and flew faster while turning (9.4 +/- 5.45 vs. 8.4 +/- 6.17 cm s(-1), ANOVA, P < 0.021). However, turning performance of both sexes overlapped, and turn rate in males even marginally exceeded turn rate in females (733 +/- 235.3 vs. 685 +/- 282.6 deg s(-1), ANCOVA, P < 0.047). We suggest that the increase in eye-span does result in an increase in the mechanical requirements for aerial turning but that male C. dalmanni are capable of compensating for the constraint of longer eye-stalks during the range of turns observed through wingbeat kinematics and increased wing size.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diptera / anatomy & histology*
  • Diptera / physiology*
  • Eye / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Male
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Sex Characteristics*