The Choreography of Flight
Snap! One half-second is all it takes the dragonfly to snatch an insect out of the air.
At Howard Hughes Medical Institute, scientists have used motion-capture sequence to track the details of a dragonfly’s movement. The brain of the dragonfly creates this complex behavior and that proves to be important ideas for future research.
The watchers claim that what the dragonfly does is every bit as complicated as the most talented ballet dancer; there is sophisticated internal information processing going on there.
Getting a body to move through space involves many mechanisms. Up until now, researchers have thought this was straightforward and the dragonfly simply reacted to the position of its prey. It is much more complicated, like a guided missile performance or catching footballs.
A team of researchers spent several years figuring out how to track a dragonfly’s body movements. They found if they placed reflective markers on different points of the dragonfly body, under high-speed video, the light reflected, providing markers of each type of movement. Kind of like a body cam for an insect, if you will.
- Structured turns
- Oriented their bodies from internal knowledge
- Lined themselves up with the prey’s flight path
- Got the jump on the insect from below
Anthony Leonardo, who led the study, says that each dragonfly moved its head to keep the image of its prey centered on the eye, despite the rotation of its own body.
The dragonfly’s movements are choreography so fine-tuned that their prey is kept in the crosshairs, using an elegant combination of control and reaction.