J Comp Physiol A (1991)169:323 330

Plasticity of the landing response of Drosophila melanogaster

Frank-Martin Waldvogel and Karl-Friedrich Fischbach

Institut für Biologie III der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Schänzlestr. I , D-79104 Freiburg, FRG Accepted June 24, 1991


Fruitflies (Drosophila melanogaster) may respond with landing reactions in tethered flight to unilateral progressive motion of single vertical dark stripes. The response frequency to repeated unilateral stimulation has a characteristic time course, a fast increase followed by a slower decrease. This behaviour is explained by the habituation of the input channels to a leaky integrator. The half-life of the integrated signal is in the range of 1 s. 'Contralateral sensitization' (CoS) describes the sensitization of the landing response to unilateral stimuli by preceding contralateral stimulation. It acts by increasing the initial reactivity, which habituates. The effects of CoS are thus still obvious after 1 min of repetitive stimulation. CoS can effectively be mediated by movement stimuli as well as by flickering light. We also show that binocular rotation rather than unilateral back to front motion inhibits the landing response (in the monocular part of the visual field). The biological significance of the described temporal characteristics of the landing response system and their possible neuronal basis are discussed.

Key words: Habituation - Contralateral sensitization -Leaky integrator - Rotation detectors