Gravity and active acceleration limit the ability of killer flies (Coenosia attenuata) to steer towards prey when attacking from above

S. Rossoni, S. T. Fabian, G. P. Sutton, P. T. Gonzalez-Bellido

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Insects that predate aerially usually contrast prey against the sky and attack upwards. However, killer flies (Coenosia attenuata) can attack prey flying below them, performing what we term 'aerial dives'. During these dives, killer flies accelerate up to 36 m s -2. Although the trajectories of the killer fly's dives appear highly variable, proportional navigation explains them, as long as the model has the lateral acceleration limit of a real killer fly. The trajectory's steepness is explained by the initial geometry of engagement; steep attacks result from the killer fly taking off when the target is approaching the predator. Under such circumstances, the killer fly dives almost vertically towards the target, and gravity significantly increases its acceleration. Although killer flies usually time their take-off to minimize flight duration, during aerial dives killer flies cannot reach the lateral accelerations necessary to match the increase in speed caused by gravity. Since a close miss still leads the predator closer to the target, and might even slow the prey down, there may not be a selective pressure for killer flies to account for gravity during aerial dives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number202158
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume18
Issue number178
DOIs
StatePublished - May 26 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.

Keywords

  • diptera
  • drag
  • flight kinematics
  • predation
  • proportional navigation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

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

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