In Photos: Amazing Fly Eyes

Eye of the Fly

The tiny robber fly reaches about 6 millimeters in length, about the size of a grain of rice.

The tiny robber fly reaches about 6 millimeters in length, about the size of a grain of rice.
(Image credit: Sam Fabian)

The tiny robber fly reaches about 6 millimeters in length, about the size of a grain of rice. But despite its small size, the fly boasts visual abilities that rival that of the dragonfly, which is 10 times larger and can carry bigger eyes.

[Read the full article on fly eyes]

A speedy predator

The robber fly, genus <em>Holcocephala</em>, perches on branches and launches itself at prey flying overhead. New research published March 9, 2017, in the journal Current Biology finds that these flies can see prey smaller than 2 millimeters up to 100 of

The robber fly, genus Holcocephala, perches on branches and launches itself at prey flying overhead. New research published March 9, 2017, in the journal Current Biology finds that these flies can see prey smaller than 2 millimeters up to 100 of their own body lengths away.
(Image credit: Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido)

The robber fly, genus Holcocephala, perches on branches and launches itself at prey flying overhead. New research published March 9, 2017, in the journal Current Biology finds that these flies can see prey smaller than 2 millimeters up to 100 of their own body lengths away.

Wide Eyes

The compound eyes of the robber fly.

The compound eyes of the robber fly.
(Image credit: Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido)

The compound eyes of the robber fly. These flies have a concentrated area of 78 micron-diameter lenses in the center of each eye, more than double the size of the lenses near the edges, which are just 20 microns across. These wide lenses allow more light in, which then focuses on unusually small light receptors that are set far back from the lens. The result is a sharp central area of vision.

Tasty meal

A robber fly perches with its prey after a successful hunt.

A robber fly perches with its prey after a successful hunt.
(Image credit: Sam Fabian)

A robber fly perches with its prey after a successful hunt. Researchers strung silver beads on fishing wire to mimic prey and videotape flies in their rapid airborne attacks.

Fly Eyes

A transmission electron microscope image of <em>Holcocephala</em> showing the enlarged lenses toward the center of the eyes.

A transmission electron microscope image of Holcocephala showing the enlarged lenses toward the center of the eyes.
(Image credit: Trevor Wardill)

A transmission electron microscope image of Holcocephala showing the enlarged lenses toward the center of the eyes.

[Read the full article on fly eyes]

Hopeful Mates

A female robber fly sits on a perch at midday as a male passes by.

A female robber fly sits on a perch at midday as a male passes by.
(Image credit: Ann Pettigrew)

A female robber fly sits on a perch at midday as a male passes by. During the middle of the day, hopeful robber fly males often approach females hoping to mate.

Satiated Fly

A robber fly sits with an unfortunate prey insect.

A robber fly sits with an unfortunate prey insect.
(Image credit: Sam Fabian)

A robber fly sits with an unfortunate prey insect. The flies probably inject their victims with a paralytic toxin and then with enzymes that dissolve the prey's tissues from the inside out.

Eye Sizes

A comparison of the (false-colored) eyes of the robber fly (left), the dragonfly (center) and the killer fly (right).

A comparison of the (false-colored) eyes of the robber fly (left), the dragonfly (center) and the killer fly (right).
(Image credit: Sam Fabian/CAIC center)

A comparison of the (false-colored) eyes of the robber fly (left), the dragonfly (center) and the killer fly (right). The dragonfly has the best vision of any known insect, but the robber fly has evolved to see nearly as sharply.

[Read the full article on fly eyes]

Shapely Eyes

A comparison of the eye shapes of the dragonfly (top), robber fly (middle) and killer fly (bottom).

A comparison of the eye shapes of the dragonfly (top), robber fly (middle) and killer fly (bottom).
(Image credit: Sam Fabian/CAIC center)

A comparison of the eye shapes of the dragonfly (top), robber fly (middle) and killer fly (bottom). The eyes are falsely colored and the head sizes are not to scale — in reality, the dragonfly dwarfs the other two species in size.

Eye Adaptations

This slide shows one of the eyes of the robber fly <em>Holcocephala</em>, with annotations explaining the adaptations that make the fly's vision so sharp.

This slide shows one of the eyes of the robber fly Holcocephala, with annotations explaining the adaptations that make the fly's vision so sharp.
(Image credit: Current Biology/Wardill and Fabian et al. )

This slide shows one of the eyes of the robber fly Holcocephala, with annotations explaining the adaptations that make the fly's vision so sharp. A long focal length between the fly lenses and the light receptors deeper in the eye has the effect of "zooming in" and creating an area of high acuity in the fly's visual field. The fly's peripheral vision, on the other hand, is not as impressive.

Look Into My Eyes

A scanning electron microscope image of the eyes of the robber fly <em>Holcocephala</em>.

A scanning electron microscope image of the eyes of the robber fly Holcocephala.
(Image credit: Sam Fabian/CAIC center)

A scanning electron microscope image of the eyes of the robber fly Holcocephala. These rice-grain-sized flies have excellent vision due to the large lenses clustered at the center of their compound eyes. They are also capable of split-second aerial attacks on prey, during which they constantly adjust their trajectory to ensure a collision course.