There are a number of behavioral components in dragonfly prey interception. First of all, the dragonfly must detect and identify potential targets in the sky. Then, the visual neurons (nerve cells) must drive the dragonfly’s head to lock onto the prey and continue to track it. During the process, some descending interneurons (carrying signals from the brain to the body) must extract critical features about the prey for evaluation. The results then trigger the motor-neurons to initiate the launching sequence which includes: synchronous wing strokes, leg kicks, and initial body reorientation in the direction of the prey movement. Our study on the pursuit strategies even suggests that the flight plan is roughly planned during this phase.
“To pursue or not to pursue, that is the question.” In the first part of the project, I attempt to identify the criteria and necessary conditions that elicit prey pursuit behavior in the dragonfly using a combination of high speed motion capture, tethered recording and wireless recording of dragonfly visual neurons.
In the second part of the investigation, we attempt to find the predictions associated with the launching sequence. When should the dragonfly takeoff? How does the head tracking help with targeting the prey? These are all on-going questions that I am trying to answer with neural telemetry recordings.