Female fruit flies copy the acceptance, but not the rejection, of a mate

19 October 2022 par webmaster
Female flies rely on the choice of male partners made by other female flies, but lose interest in abandoned males

Acceptance and avoidance can be socially transmitted, especially in the case of mate choice.

In Drosophila melanogaster, when a female observes a conspecific female (called demonstrator female) choosing to mate with one of two males, the former female (called observer female) can memorize and copy the latter female’s choice. Traditionally in mate-copying experiments, demonstrations provide two types of information to observer females, namely, the acceptance (positive) of one male and the rejection of the other male (negative).

To disentangle the respective roles of positive and negative information in Drosophila mate copying, we performed experiments in which demonstrations provided only one type of information at a time. We found that positive information alone is sufficient to trigger mate copying. This suggests that Drosophila females learn to prefer the successful males, implying that the underlying learning mechanisms may be shared with those of appetitive memory in non-social associative learning.

Following an observation by a female observer of a female demonstrator copulating with a green but not a pink, this observer copulates with the green male not because she rejects the pink, but because she chooses the green. Photo by David Villa ScienceImage CBI CNRS


Nöbel S., Monier M., Fargeot L., Lespagnol G., Danchin E., Isabel G.

Female fruit flies copy the acceptance, but not the rejection, of a mate.

Behavioral Ecology, 2022 Aug.


Guillaume ISABEL