The simple fly larval visual system can process complex images.

Research paper by Elizabeth Daubert ED Justice, Nicholas James NJ Macedonia, Catherine C Hamilton, Barry B Condron

Indexed on: 25 Oct '12Published on: 25 Oct '12Published in: Nature communications


Animals that have simple eyes are thought to only detect crude visual detail such as light level. However, predatory insect larvae using a small number of visual inputs seem to distinguish complex image targets. Here we show that Drosophila melanogaster larvae, which have 12 photoreceptor cells per hemisphere, are attracted to distinct motions of other, tethered larvae and that this recognition requires the visual system but not the olfactory system. In addition, attraction to tethered larvae still occurs across a clear plastic barrier, does not occur significantly in the dark and attraction occurs to a computer screen movie of larval motion. By altering the artificial attractant movie, we conclude that visual recognition involves both spatial and temporal components. Our results demonstrate that a simple but experimentally tractable visual system can distinguish complex images and that processing in the relatively large central brain may compensate for the simple input.