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Hawk Moths Perfect Night Vision By Slowing Brain Activity

Hawk Moth Study

The results of a recently published study suggest hawk moths, large swift-flying moths which typically feed on nectar while hovering, actually slow down their brain in order to enhance their night vision.

Hawk moths are typically active during dawn and dusk, when light levels are low. In order to calibrate their vision to the low levels of available light, the study’s authors believe that the moths actually reduce their visual response times in order to allow for greater light sensitivity, but there’s a tradeoff which could prove potentially problematic.

The tradeoff occurs when the insects reduce their brain activity, as while this improves visual tracking, it slows movements. However, the moths examined by the researchers in the study were not inhibited in this fashion, as their slowed movements were, according to the study’s authors, just above the natural frequency at which the flowers that provide their food sway.

In the study, which was published Friday in the journal Science, researchers designed robotic flowers and employed high speed video to record the feeding behavior of the insects. The robo-flowers were programmed to move in several ways at once and computers were used to determine how well the moths stayed in sync with them.

The study found that robotic flowers oscillating faster than 1.7 times a second was too fast for the moths to stay in sync, however, the researchers ventured out into the field and found that the type of flowers hawkmoth’s feed on do not oscillate faster than 1.7 times a second, which led the researchers to indicate that moths and their flowers seem to be ideally suited to one another, the NY Times reported.

In other news, scientists believe they’ve discovered why some mushrooms glow in the dark.

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