Home > Papers from 2015 > Bumblebee saccades

Bumblebee saccades

Saccadic movements are a part of the visual behaviours of many animals. Here Boeddeker et al look at the saccades of navigating bumblebees, which seem to follow the classical pattern of fast head turns that allow animals to spend the maximum possible time in pure translation.
Abstract: “Changes in flight direction in flying insects are largely due to roll, yaw and pitch rotations of their body. Head orientation is stabilized for most of the time by counter rotation. Here, we use high-speed video to analyse head- and body-movements of the bumblebee Bombus terrestris while approaching and departing from a food source located between three landmarks in an indoor flight-arena. The flight paths consist of almost straight flight segments that are interspersed with rapid turns. These short and fast yaw turns (“saccades”) are usually accompanied by even faster head yaw turns that change gaze direction. Since a large part of image rotation is thereby reduced to brief instants of time, this behavioural pattern facilitates depth perception from visual motion parallax during the intersaccadic intervals. The detailed analysis of the fine structure of the bees’ head turning movements shows that the time course of single head saccades is very stereotypical. We find a consistent relationship between the duration, peak velocity and amplitude of saccadic head movements, which in its main characteristics resembles the so-called “saccadic main sequence” in humans. The fact that bumblebee head saccades are highly stereotyped as in humans, may hint at a common principle, where fast and precise motor control is used to reliably reduce the time during which the retinal images moves.”
Boeddeker, N., Mertes, M., Dittmar, L., & Egelhaaf, M. (2015). Bumblebee Homing: The Fine Structure of Head Turning Movements. PloS one10(9), e0135020.
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