Skip to main content

Data from: Takeoff diversity in Diptera

Cite this dataset

Yarger, Alexandra M.; Jordan, Katherine; Fox, Jessica; Smith, Alexa (2020). Data from: Takeoff diversity in Diptera [Dataset]. Dryad.


The order Diptera (true flies) are named for their two wings because their hindwings have evolved into specialized mechanosensory organs called halteres. Flies use halteres to detect body rotations and maintain stability during flight and other behaviors. The most recently diverged dipteran monophyletic subsection, the Calyptratae, is highly successful, accounting for ~12% of dipteran diversity and includes common families like house flies. These flies move their halteres independently from their wings and oscillate their halteres during walking. Here, we demonstrate that this subsection of flies uses their halteres to stabilize their bodies during takeoff, whereas non-­­­­Calyptratae flies do not. We find that flies of the Calyptratae are able to take off more rapidly than non-Calyptratae flies without sacrificing stability. Haltere removal decreased both velocity and stability in the takeoffs of Calyptratae, but not other flies. The loss of takeoff velocity following haltere removal in Calyptratae (but not other flies) is a direct result of a decrease in leg extension speed.  A closely-related non-Calyptratae species (D. melanogaster) also has a rapid takeoff, but takeoff duration and stability are unaffected by haltere removal. Haltere use thus allows for greater speed and stability during fast escapes, but only in the Calyptratae clade.


A high-speed camera (Fastec Imaging, San Diego, CA, USA) captured tethered and freely-behaving flies at 1000-3000 frames per second. Positions of wings, halteres, head, abdomen, and center of mass were digitized using DLTDATAVIEWER.


United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Award: FA9550-14-0398

National Science Foundation, Award: 1754412

United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Award: FA9550-16-1-0165