Scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Washington analyzed the hawk moth with the aim of determining how it is able to move its wings like it does while it feeds at night, during complete darkness.
Simon Sponberg, one of the authors of the recent study, who is an assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology said that these moths have to stay in that particular position because the flowers tend to move constantly as the wind blows.
The moths, who have a proboscis that is almost as long as they are and is used for feeding on the flower’s nectar, would need the flower to stand still, but because it doesn’t, they have to move along with it.
The researchers wanted to learn more about these movements and, in order to do so, they produced a 3-D flower and analyzed the moth’s feeding behavior. Dusk and darkness were simulated. The robotic flower moved in various directions, just like real flowers did. Sometimes the flowers moved at a slow pace and other times more rapidly.
They soon realized that if the moths’ visual processing slowed down while it was getting darker, the insect wouldn’t be able to follow the flower while in faster motion.
The researchers used computers to separate the movements of the 3-D flowers and determine whether their ability to follow them deteriorated during the fast movement in very low light.
Because their tracking ability was not the same, they reached the conclusion that moths actually slowed down their brain to improve their night vision. However, they still managed to remain in synchronicity with them, which means they knew exactly how much they should slow down their brain so as not to lose track of the flower.
Thus, the researchers observed that the moths were able to follow the flower as long as it did not go faster than 1.7 times per second. They had trouble remaining synchronized with them if it exceeded this limit. However, flowers rarely move faster than this.
The study, which was published in the journal Science, gives food for thought not only for scientists who want to carry out further research but also to other people, who can reflect on the wonders of nature.
Image Source: entomologytoday