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Hawkmoth Hummingbird

The roles of vision and antennal mechanoreception in hawkmoth flight control

Flying animals need continual sensory feedback about their body position and orientation for flight control. The visual system provides essential but slow feedback. In contrast, mechanosensory channels can provide feedback at much shorter timescales. How the contributions from these two senses are integrated remains an open question in most insect groups. In Diptera, fast mechanosensory feedback is provided by organs called halteres and is crucial for the control of rapid flight manoeuvres, while vision controls manoeuvres in lower temporal frequency bands. Here, we have investigated the visual-mechanosensory integration in the hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum. They represent a large group of insects that use Johnston’s organs in their antennae to provide mechanosensory feedback on perturbations in body position. Our experiments show that antennal mechanosensory feedback specifically mediates fast flight manoeuvres, but not slow ones. Moreover, we did not observe compensatory interactions between antennal and visual feedback.