Dragonfly brains predict the path of their prey—25 July 2017

Researchers based at The University of Adelaide and Lund University in Sweden—including Dr Steven Wiederman, an Australian Research Council (ARC) 2015 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient—have shown how a dragonfly's brain anticipates the movement of its prey, enabling it to hunt successfully. The new insights could lead to innovations in fields such as robot vision.

"Until now, the international research community has primarily considered the capabilities of mammals, such as humans, for investigating how animals can predict where a moving object will be in the near future," says Dr Wiederman, a project partner and Senior Lecturer at The University of Adelaide's Adelaide Medical School.

"Understandably, mammals in many ways are more complex organisms than insects, but with each discovery we're finding that dragonflies have keen visual and neural processes that could be ideal for translating into technological advances," he says.

The Swedish-Australian collaboration resulted in the discovery of brain cells (neurons) in the dragonfly Hemicordulia that enables them to predictively pursue and catch their flying prey. These neurons make it possible to focus on a small object that moves over a complex background, similarly to how humans can track and catch a ball, even when that ball is moving against the backdrop of a cheering crowd.

The research has been published in the journal eLife.

Media issued by The University of Adelaide.

 

Image: Dragonflies have keen visual and neural processes that could be ideal for translating into technological advances.
Source: Shizhao—Wikimedia Commons

Original Published Date: 
Thursday, July 27, 2017