According to study, flies use odor motion to help them navigate
From wolves to bees, all animals and insects depend on their capacity to locate the source of odors, which is difficult when wind disperses and hides their source. According to earlier studies, animals and insects find these targets by smelling the strength of the odors and then tracing back in the opposite direction of the wind.
For the same reason that smoke from a chimney disperses and its trail does not necessarily lead back to its source, following the wind alone, however, can misdirect them. Scientists at Yale University led by Thierry Emonet and Damon Clark questioned whether flies were capable of detecting the movements of odor packets without the aid of the wind.
The Emonet and Clark laboratories used their knowledge of motion detection and smell navigation to create experiments to test this theory for a new study. They found that, contrary to popular belief, flies are capable of detecting the motion of odor packets on their own, independent of the wind.
The researchers genetically altered the fly antennae to sense light in order to accomplish this finding. They then made fictive odor packets out of light and observed how the flies reacted to these signals in both windless and windy conditions. They discovered that the fly antennae worked to detect the motion of odor packets, enabling flies to change their route solely based on signals from odor packets. The article was released in the journal Nature on November 9.
According to the researchers, this information will help not just public health (how mosquitoes seek people) and agriculture (how bees locate flowers), but also the creation of robots that can detect threats like landmines.
Nirag Kadakia et al. (2022). Odor motion sensing enhances navigation of complex plumes, Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05423-4
Abstract To understand the brain mechanisms of olfaction we must understand the rules that govern the link between odorant structure and odorant perception. Natural odors are in fact mixtures made of many molecules, and there is currently no method to look at the molecular structure of such odorant-mixtures and predict their smell. In three separate … Continue reading
Abstract Molecular and cellular studies have begun to unravel a neurobiological basis of olfactory processing, which appears conserved among vertebrate and invertebrate species. Studies have shown clearly that experience-dependent coding of odor identity occurs in “associative” olfactory centers (the piriform cortex in mammals and the mushroom body [MB] in insects). What remains unclear, however, is … Continue reading