A fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) on a peach

Fruit flies have special neurons that sense the wind to aid navigation

A fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) on a peach

blickwinkel / Alamy

Specific neurons in fruit flies fire according to wind direction, helping them form a neural map of their surroundings. Algorithms inspired by this may be able to help robots to better navigate their environment.

Tatsuo Okubo at Harvard Medical School and his colleagues wanted to determine how wind direction was characterised by a fruit fly’s brain. While it is well known that wind direction affects the behaviour of insects, no one had yet developed a map of the neurons involved in this phenomenon for any animal.

The …