The move is seldom observed in real time due to its speed, but Joris Schaap and Emile van Wijk managed to capture the behaviour using a high-speed camera. The escape manoeuvre is performed when a fly is taken by surprise, allowing it to regain control during the tumble.
The same behaviour in fruit flies has been observed in the lab by biologists Michael Dickinson from the University of Washington and Gwyneth Card from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dickinson and Card typically study fruit flies in flight, for example to find out more about wing dynamics and how the brain translates decisions into motion.
The short film is one of the winners in a competition organised by the Flight Artists group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The team taught amateur filmmakers how to use high-speed cameras to capture flying animals, or plant seeds, and selected the best results.