Sexual Dimorphism in the Hoverfly Motion Vision Pathway

Karin Nordström, Paul D. Barnett, Irene M. Moyer de Miguel, Russell S.A. Brinkworth, David C. O'Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Many insects perform high-speed aerial maneuvers in which they navigate through visually complex surrounds. Among insects, hoverflies stand out, with males switching from stationary hovering to high-speed pursuit at extreme angular velocities [1]. In dipterans, 50-60 large interneurons-the lobula-plate tangential cells (LPTCs)-detect changes in optic flow experienced during flight [2-5]. It has been predicted that large LPTC receptive fields are a requirement of accurate "matched filters" of optic flow [6]. Whereas many fly taxa have three horizontal system (HS) LPTC neurons in each hemisphere, hoverflies have four [7], possibly reflecting the more sophisticated flight behavior. We here show that the most dorsal hoverfly neuron (HS north [HSN]) is sexually dimorphic, with the male receptive field substantially smaller than in females or in either sex of blowflies. The (hoverfly-specific) HSN equatorial (HSNE) is, however, sexually isomorphic. Using complex optic flow, we show that HSN, despite its smaller receptive field, codes yaw velocity as well as HSNE. Responses to a target moving against a plain or textured background suggest that the male HSN could potentially play a role in target pursuit under some conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-667
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2008
Externally publishedYes




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