Apr 14, 2014

Walking Drosophila navigate complex plumes using stochastic decisions biased by the timing of odor encounters

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Jose Davila-VelderrainThierry Emonet


Insects find food, mates, and egg-laying sites by tracking odor plumes swept by complex wind patterns. Previous studies have shown that moths and flies localize plumes by surging upwind at odor onset and turning cross- or downwind at odor offset. Less clear is how, once within the expanding cone of the odor plume, insects use their brief encounters with individual odor packets, whose location and timing are random, to progress towards the source. Experiments and theory have suggested that the timing of odor encounters might assist navigation, but connecting behaviors to individual encounters has been challenging. Here, we imaged complex odor plumes simultaneous with freely-walking flies, allowing us to quantify how behavior is shaped by individual odor encounters. Combining measurements, dynamical models, and statistical inference, we found that within the plume cone, individual encounters did not trigger reflexive surging, casting, or counterturning. Instead, flies turned stochastically with stereotyped saccades, whose direction was biased upwind by the timing of prior odor encounters, while the magnitude and rate of saccades remained constant. Odor encounters did not strongly affect walking speed. Instead, flies used encounte...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Genomic Stability
Study of Epigenetics
Grn protein, mouse
Division of Cancer Biology
Gene Regulatory Networks

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