Small object detection neurons in female hoverflies

Karin Nordström, David C. O'Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


While predators such as dragonflies are dependent on visual detection of moving prey, social interactions make conspecific detection equally important for many non-predatory insects. Specialized 'acute zones' associated with target detection have evolved in several insect groups and are a prominent male-specific feature in many dipteran flies. The physiology of target selective neurons associated with these specialized eye regions has previously been described only from male flies. We show here that female hoverflies (Eristalis tenax) have several classes of neurons within the third optic ganglion (lobula) capable of detecting moving objects smaller than 1°. These neurons have frontal receptive fields covering a large part of the ipsilateral world and are tuned to a broad range of target speeds and sizes. This could make them suitable for detecting targets under a range of natural conditions such as required during predator avoidance or conspecific interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1216
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1591
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Higher-order visual neurons
  • Hypercomplex cells
  • Intracellular electrophysiology
  • Visual target detection


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