The robber fly, a tiny insect just 6 milimetres long, puts fighter pilots to shame, research reveals.
Making use of the several thousand lenses that comprise its compound eyes, it is able to spot, identify, lock on, pursue and catch its prey – changing direction if necessary – covering half a metre in less than half a second. To put that in human terms, that’s like standing at one end of a football pitch, suddenly seeing rabbit at the other end, and catching it before it has time to hop.
There are several species of robber fly, all belonging in to the genus Holcocephala. Researchers led by Dr Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido of Cambridge University’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, used ultra-high-speed photography to record the fly’s hunting behavior.
The lenses in robber fly compound eyes are unusual because they have many different focal lengths, allowing the insect to see clearly over multiple distances and in varying in light conditions. The research is published in journal Current Biology.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.