Flying insects need to have some feedback mechanisms to aid flight control. Two winged flies have halteres which "detect Coriolis forces and thereby mediate flight stability during maneuvers." Four winged insects do not have halteres but need ways of getting the appropriate sensory inputs. Dragonflies appear to use visual inputs to track their position, but this option is not open to night-flying insects. Until recently, it has been said that the moth's antennae are "primarily known as super-sensitive odor receptors--used to sniff out females and food from miles away--and researchers had hypothesized that they assist in flight only by acting as air flow sensors." But not now! The hawk moth's antennae have been found to perform the same role as the flies' halteres. They also experience Coriolis forces, detect rotational motion and relay this mechanosensory input to neural centers to maintain stability during flight.
As research progresses, the living world appears to be packed with complex specified information. In these cases, it is legitimate to include intelligent design as an option in the causal explanations under consideration. This is because, outside the natural world, complex specified information is always associated with intelligent causation. This point is worth making because the abstract refers to flying insects evolving "sophisticated sensory capabilities", the hind wings having been "modified into club-shaped, mechanosensory halteres" and the editors of Science refer to the halteres as "vestigial". The science of this paper needs to be distinguished from the Darwinian spin.
Antennal Mechanosensors Mediate Flight Control in Moths
Sanjay P. Sane, Alexandre Dieudonne, Mark A. Willis, and Thomas L. Daniel
Science 315, 9 February 2007: 863-866.
Abstract: Flying insects have evolved sophisticated sensory capabilities to achieve rapid course control during aerial maneuvers. Among two-winged insects such as houseflies and their relatives, the hind wings are modified into club-shaped, mechanosensory halteres, which detect Coriolis forces and thereby mediate flight stability during maneuvers. Here, we show that mechanosensory input from the antennae serves a similar role during flight in hawk moths, which are four-winged insects. The antennae of flying moths vibrate and experience Coriolis forces during aerial maneuvers. The antennal vibrations are transduced by individual units of Johnston's organs at the base of their antennae in a frequency range characteristic of the Coriolis input. Reduction of the mechanical input to Johnston's organs by removing the antennal flagellum of these moths severely disrupted their flight stability, but reattachment of the flagellum restored their flight control. The antennae thus play a crucial role in maintaining flight stability of moths.
Antennae as Gyroscopes by R. McNeill Alexander, Science 315, 9 February 2007: 771-772.
The Moth's Gyroscope by Brendan Borrell, ScienceNOW Daily News, 8 February 2007
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