Fruit flies can transmit their sexual preferences culturally

05 December 2018 par webmaster
Researchers from the CNRS and université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier (UT3), including Guillaume Isabel from the CRCA, show that fruit flies possess all of the cognitive capacities needed to culturally transmit their sexual preferences across generations.

The study, published on November 30, 2018 in Science, provides the first experimental toolbox for studying the existence of animal cultures, thereby opening up an entire field of research.

While the cultural process is often thought of as being the unique to humans, the existence of persistent behavioral variation that cannot be ascribed to genetic or ecological variation in primate or bird strongly suggests the possible existence of cultural transmission within certain vertebrate species. For the first time, researchers from the Évolution et diversité biologique (CNRS/UT3/IRD) laboratory of the Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale (CNRS/UT3), along with their international collaborators, have demonstrated that all of the mechanisms required for cultural transmission actually exist in the fruit fly.

Drosophila, commonly called fruit flies, are known for their capacity to learn and copy the sexual preferences of their conspecifics after observing them copulating. Can this transmission, however, be considered as “cultural”?

Read more on CNRS website

Situation d'apprentissage : deux femelles 'observatrices' regardent un mâle vert s'accoupler avec une femelle 'démonstratrice' tandis qu'un mâle rose est rejeté. © David Duneau/Science


Etienne Danchin, Sabine Nöbel, Arnaud Pocheville, Anne-Cecile Dagaeff, Léa Demay, Mathilde Alphand, Sarah Ranty-Roby, Lara van Renssen, Magdalena Monier, Eva Gazagne, Mélanie Allain, Guillaume Isabel

"Cultural flies: Conformist social learning in fruitflies predicts long-lasting mate-choice traditions"

Science, 30 Nov 2018: Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 1025-1030, DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1590


Researcher contact

Guillaume ISABEL, 05 61 55 75 82

Guillaume Isabel © CRCA