Have you watched a fly chase another fly all around the room and ever wonder how they manage to always be so close together even though the prey is trying its best to get away? Well, some scientists wondered. They were intrigued with this "mating chase" of the male fly after the female fly. You could say that the female was trying to play hard to get while the male lustily engages the pursuit.
The male nearly always gets his "prey". However, if the female fly tried to chase the male, she would have no such luck. This is due to the sexual dimorphism of the fly. The male fly has a superior visual system to the female which he can use to locate and intercept the female fly in flight; however, the female fly does not have this advantage. The male-specific neurons that control the fly's superior visual system are complicated and intricate.
The history behind the study of the fly's neurons begins with a 19th Century scientist by the name of Cajal. He studied neural systems and was the first to isolate nerve cells near the surface of the brain. His work led to a greater study of neurobiology and the passion for attempting to understand the workings of the nervous system. However, real progress in this field did not culminate until Land and Collett established a remarkable theoretical model of the two part visual system of the fly's brain.
This model was incredibly close to the actual structure and function of the male fly's visual system. The structure of the male's eyes are even different to the female's. When looking at the two side by side, one can readily see the differences. Even these outer physical differences attribute to the male's superiority with his binocular vision and the ability to keep a target continually in his sight. As Land and Collett proposed the visual system of the male fly has two systems, one that identifies the velocity of the pursued object and the other notes the position of the said object. As one delves deeper into the fly's eye, more can be learned about the structure and ultimately the function of the male's visual system and his visual acuity.
The male-specific neurons in the fly provide him with the opportunity to better control his motor responses and the accuracy of his flight path. The male flies are the only ones encompassed in high velocity aerial chases. This is mainly attributed to the main male-specific neurons that the female fly is incapable of possessing and thus unable to maneuver and chase like the males. The function of these special neurons is to make sure the male fly intercepts its goal whether a female fly or a just teeny tiny black object floating in the breeze. The neurons that are directionally sensitive move only in response to certain directions. Other neurons activate the movement of the male based on the non-positional direction that the object in question moves. Yet, another system of neurons are responsible for keeping the target in full view all the time. These actions of the...