Measurement and Sensory Cell Variety of Dipteran Fly Halteres – Journal of Zoology Weblog

Simmons, P.J. (2024). Scaling of sense organs that management flight: Measurement and sensory cell variety of dipteran fly halteres. Journal of Zoology, vol. 322, pp. 12-23.

Dipteran (‘true’) flies are amongst probably the most aerobatic bugs, and one of many largest insect orders. They’re characterised by a single pair of power-providing wings, the hind wings being modified into drumstick-like sensory constructions, the  halteres. Halteres act as gyroscopes (as proven by JWS Pringle (1948) in a paper that could be a actual tour-de-force) offering data that’s essential to a fly’s aerobatics. The knowledge comes from  tiny pressure gauges, i.e. mechano-sensory cells on the floor close to a haltere’s joint with the  thorax.  Haltere form  and the association of their sensory cells  differ between totally different fly teams (Agrawal et al., 2017), however haltere measurement has not been measured systematically.

Determine 1. Halteres are most evident in craneflies resting with wings open (left image), however can typically be seen in different flies (proper image). Packing containers proven enlarged parts of every {photograph}. Pictures by Peter Simmons

In a challenge following my retirement from Newcastle College, I investigated whether or not giant flies have longer halteres than smaller flies, and whether or not giant flies’ halteres  bear extra sensory cells and so collect extra data than these of small flies. Little is thought about how the dimensions and construction of sense organs differ with physique measurement in animals, excluding eyes by which bigger animals have smaller eyes in relation to physique measurement in contrast with smaller, related animals.

I discovered that bigger flies do have longer halteres than smaller ones,  however in relation to physique measurement they’re shorter – the identical form of scaling discovered with eyes. Crane flies have significantly lengthy halteres in contrast with hover flies or blow flies. Haltere size is proportional to wing size – it is necessary that each constructions beat up and down on the similar frequency throughout flight. The dimensions of the swollen bulb-like finish of a haltere was typically bigger in relation to haltere size in small flies.

Determine 2. Drawings of the left halteres from 4 totally different flies, every together with specimens of various physique measurement.

The variety of sensory cells is more-or-less fastened inside a specific group of flies. It doesn’t differ between species which have giant and small physique sizes, or between giant and small flies of the identical species.  Nevertheless, the variety of sensory cells does differ between totally different teams. In my pattern, horseflies had many greater than hover flies or ‘calyptrates’, which embody houseflies and blow flies. It’s not clear why horse flies ought to be endowed with so many haltere sensory cells – we all know little about their flight behaviour. It is perhaps that the extra common association of sensory cells  into rows in hover flies and calyptrate flies permits them to work extra effectively, so these flies want fewer of the sensory cells  than horse flies do. Crane flies had comparatively few of the sensory cells, maybe related to their slower, much less aerobatic flight.

Peter Simmons

Determine 3. Microscope images of the higher components of left halteres from three flies, displaying teams of mechano-sensory cells (blue arrows, picture on left; enlarged a part of this picture reveals a couple of mechano-receptors intimately).  The face fly is smaller than the massive blow fly; each are calyptrates and have related numbers of mechano-receptors, that are organized in common rows. Within the horse fly, mechano-receptors association is much less orderly, however there are extra of them. Pictures by Peter Simmons


Pringle, J. W. S. (1948). The gyroscopic mechanism of the halteres of Diptera. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B – Organic Sciences, vol. 233, pp. 347–384.

Agrawal, S., Grimaldi, D. & Fox, J. L. (2017). Haltere morphology and campaniform sensilla association throughout Diptera. Arthropod Construction & Growth, vol. 46, Situation 2, pp. 215-229.

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