Sunday, June 16, 2013

What goes on in a hoverfly's brain when its head rotates?.

Owls are famously capable of swivelling their heads so that they can look directly behind them, but hoverflies have even more flexible necks. This one landed in front of me and began to clean its tongue with one of its feet, then........

..... swivelled its head through 180 degrees to clean the top of its head. That's its tongue pointing upwards.

Consider for a moment what goes on in a hoverfly's brain during this contortion.

Those large compound eyes given it almost 360 degree vision, above, below, to both sides and also, to a considerable extent, behind. So when it rotates its head like this its image of the world must invert in a fraction of a second. Often they'll rotate their heads clockwise through 180 degrees, and then do the same anticlockwise.

 I'm struggling to imaging what the sensation must feel like .... maybe something like one of those big dipper rides .....?


  1. Would be even more confusing to us with all those multiple lenses.

  2. Looks like it could be cleaning the ocelli - fast-reacting light sensors (often arranged in a triangle) at the top of the head which are used to detect movement. I wonder who told it they were dirty?

  3. Must all be a bit of a blur, John...

  4. Hi Stuart, I wonder if it's just part of the feeding instinct, combing off attached pollen and then eating it. A lot of hoverflies seem to behave like this ..........