Animals classify stimuli to generate appropriate motor actions. In flight, Drosophila melanogaster classify equidistant large and small objects with categorically different behaviors: a tall object evokes approach whereas a small object elicits avoidance. We studied visuomotor behavior in rigidly and magnetically tethered D. melanogaster to reveal strategies that generate aversion to a small object. We discovered that small-object aversion in tethered flight is enabled by aversive saccades and smooth movement, which vary with the stimulus type. Aversive saccades in response to a short bar had different dynamics from approach saccades in response to a tall bar and the distribution of pre-saccade error angles was more stochastic for a short bar. Taken together, we show that aversive responses in D. melanogaster are driven in part by processes that elicit signed saccades with distinct dynamics and trigger mechanisms. Our work generates new hypotheses to study brain circuits that underlie classification of objects in D. melanogaster.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Molecular Biology
- Insect Science