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Stereo video files used for 3d tracking horsefly trajectories

Cite this dataset

How, Martin; Caro, Tim (2020). Stereo video files used for 3d tracking horsefly trajectories [Dataset]. Dryad.


Of all hypotheses advanced for why zebras have stripes, avoidance of biting fly attack receives by far the most support, yet the mechanisms by which stripes thwart landings are not yet understood. A logical and popular hypothesis is that stripes interfere with optic flow patterns needed by flying insects to execute controlled landings. This could occur through disrupting the radial symmetry of optic flow via the aperture effect (i.e. generation of false motion cues by straight edges), or through spatiotemporal aliasing (i.e. misregistration of repeated features) of evenly spaced stripes. By recording and reconstructing tabanid fly behaviour around horses wearing differently patterned rugs, we could tease out these hypotheses using realistic target stimuli. We found that flies avoided landing on, flew faster near, and did not approach as close to striped and checked rugs compared to grey. Our observations that flies avoided checked patterns in a similar way to stripes refutes the hypothesis that stripes disrupt optic flow via the aperture effect, which critically demands parallel striped patterns. Our data narrow the menu of fly-equid visual interactions that form the basis for the extraordinary coloration of zebras.


Filming was conducted using a custom-built stereo camera rig consisting of two digital video cameras (Hero 5, GoPro, San Mateo, USA) affixed at either end of a 1.0 m metal bar mounted on a tripod. Cameras were triggered simultaneously by a single wireless remote and temporally synchronized using the audio channel. The relative position of each camera and the distortive effects of the camera optics were determined via a calibration routine involving a flat checkerboard standard and the stereo camera toolbox in Matlab (2018a, Mathworks, Natick, USA). Fly activity around horses was filmed at 60 frames per second, at a resolution of 2704 x1520 pixels. Horsefly (Haematopota pluvialis and Tabanus bromius) trajectories were manually extracted from the stereo video recordings, first by identifying tabanids approaching the horse, then by manually digitising the fly’s location frame-by-frame in the pair of stereo images using a custom-written script in Matlab. Finally, the moment-to-moment position of the fly was extracted using the built-in functions of the stereo camera toolbox. To place the trajectory data in the context of the target host, a three dimensional mesh model of an average-sized horse was placed in the virtual space alongside the fly trajectory and manoeuvred to align with markers digitised on the front and rear regions of the original horse. Care was taken to sample the 100 or so trajectories from each rug type across as many horses as possible, over as wide time intervals as possible to further reduce the unlikely event of digitizing the same fly.


Royal Society, Award: UF140558