Feature

Sengrim and Little Red Riding Hood
Sengrim and Litte Red Riding Hood - the wolf as evil and sneaky beast in European tales. (19th-century-postcard, public domain, wikimedia commons)
For centuries if not for millenia wolves and men were sworn enemies. In Central and Western Europe man mercyless hunted Canis lupus (scientific name for the ancestor of our domestic dogs) and finally wiped out the grey predators in many regions of the densely populated countries like Germany and France. In Great Britain it was already wiped out in the Middles Ages. Only in remote areas of Western and Central Europe (Spain) isolated populations remained.

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Spiders - not everybodys darlings (photograph: T. Hesselberg)
Who does not know them? Eight legs possessing animals which with their often dark color contrast extremly with the bright color of our bathroom walls where they are sitting on and which appear unexpected and cause fierce reactions in every third woman and every fifth man world wide throughout all cultures: The spiders. Arachnophobia - the fear of spiders - is the most common animalphobia and the less explainable. The most popular explanation is an evolutionary approach: spiders are poisonous and their bite is dangerous. Thus in our archaic parts of the brain is a kind of natural arachnophobia present.

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A photo of the flight simulator in the Biofutures Group at the University of Ulm
By placing fruit flies in a flight simulator, scientists can get new insights into the flies’ fascinating ability to avoid the flyswatter. The secret is a high manoeuvrability and a visual system that can detect 300 images per second.

 

Most of us may remember from the school’s biology lessons that the small fruit fly, with the characteristic red eyes, is an important model organism in genetics. Fruit flies, however, are also excellent model organisms in other areas of life science. In this article, we will look at how fruit flies can be used to understand the role of the visual system in flying insects. Apart from increasing our knowledge about the most species rich group of animals, it is important to know more about the role of vision in insects as it might give new insights into the interaction between motion control and vision in humans. The gained knowledge can, furthermore, prove valuable in the development of biologically inspired flying robots.