This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Last updated at 13:49 BST, Friday, 11 April 2014

Flies move 'like fighter jets'

Summary

11 April 2014

New research shows that when a threat comes into view, fruit flies make extremely fast turns similar to those made by fighter jets. The study explains why flies are hard to catch, according to the team.

Reporter:

Pallab Ghosh

A fly

Flies have brains the size of a grain of salt

Listen

Click to hear the report

Report

The research team were astonished by the speed with which fruit flies are able to change direction in mid-flight when faced with a threat.

Like fighter aircraft, they pitch, roll and regain stability, and all in five-thousandths of a second. High speed video shows that this complex and abrupt manoeuvre involves very subtle changes in the insect's wing beat that are barely discernible.

It's a mystery how a creature with a brain the size of a grain of salt is able to process visual information and translate it into precise muscular movements so quickly and precisely.

But according to the research team, it does help to explain why flies are so difficult to swat.

Listen

Click here to hear the vocabulary

Vocabulary

astonished

very surprised

pitch

(of a boat or aircraft) move up and down suddenly

stability

balance

abrupt

sudden and unexpected

manoeuvre

a movement that you need skill and care to do

subtle

not obvious, difficult to notice

discernible

able to be seen or noticed

process

understand and deal with

swat

hit with a flat object (especially an insect)

Latest reports

Previous reports

  1. Home
  2. Grammar, Vocabulary & Pronunciation
  3. Words in the News
  4. Flies move 'like fighter jets'