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Faster Than a Flash: The Fastest Visual Startle Reflex Response is Found in a Long-Legged Fly, Condylostylus sp. (Dolichopodidae)

Florida Entomologist
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2-17567 p367-369 FESdj Scientific Note s 367 FASTER THAN A FLASH: THE FASTEST VISUAL STARTLE REFLEX RESPONSE IS FOUND IN A LONG-LEGGED FLY, CONDYLOSTYLUS SP. (DOLICHOPODIDAE) A NDREI S OURAKOV McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 E-mail: [email protected] Supplemental material online at Recently, fast reflex responses of skipper but- terflies (Hesperiidae) to the photographic flash were reported and were found to be among the fastest ever recorded (<17 ms)—comparable to the fastest reflexes of the vertebrates (Sourakov 2009). Using a similar photographic technique, but a faster and more precise camera, even faster response times were found in Condylostylus flies (Diptera: Dolichopodidae). This new record re- ported here undoubtedly constitutes the fastest reflex response of a member of the animal king- dom ever recorded. The observations were made in the Natural Teaching Laboratory, a forested area on the Uni- versity of Florida campus, Gainesville, Florida. A Condylostylus sp. was photographed with a Canon EOS camera the built-in flash at a shutter speed of 1/200 s = 5 ms. Photographs in Fig. 1 were taken with an interval of ca. 20 s within a 4- min period. The fly, startled by the flash, was able to take flight 9 out of 10 times before the image was taken. As a result, the fly’s image was repeat- edly captured in flight (Fig. 1). The fly’s visual startle reflex caused by the flash had a latent pe- riod of less than 5 ms and, perhaps, only 2 ms. Some habituation can occur as evidenced when the camera was fired consecutively 4 times: the fly did not react to the fourth flash and hence the fly remained in a resting position (Fig. 1D). How- ever, the fly quickly recovered and continued re- acting to the flash 20 s later. No other species of insects pho

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