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Dipteran Halteres: Perspectives on Function and Integration for a Unique Sensory Organ.


The halteres of dipteran insects (true flies) are essential mechanosensory organs for flight. These are modified hindwings with several arrays of sensory cells at their base, and they are one of the characteristic features of flies. Mechanosensory information from the halteres is sent with low latency to wing-steering and head movement motoneurons, allowing direct control of body position and gaze. Analyses of the structure and dynamics of halteres indicate that they experience very small aerodynamic forces but significant inertial forces, including Coriolis forces associated with body rotations. The sensory cells at the base of the haltere detect these forces and allow the fly to correct for perturbations during flight, but new evidence suggests that this may not be their only role. This review will examine our current understanding of how these organs move, encode forces, and transmit information about these forces to the nervous system to guide behavior.