21 Feb 2019

Caroline Fabre

Seismic communication between courting Drosophila flies

Caroline Fabre

Title: Seismic communication between courting Drosophila flies

Affiliation: University of Cambridge


Many diverse animals use substrate-borne signals as a way for individuals to communicate with one another. The literature abounds of examples as varied as elephants, leafhoppers and tree frogs. The robust vibrations that are produced by the sender propagate through the ground to reach and inform a receiver. Substrate-borne vibrations were recently identified as a feature of the communication between courting Drosophila flies. Drosophila males generate the vibrations in the courting substrate by tremulating their abdomens. During the vibrations, the nearby female remains immobile, thus facilitating mounting and copulation. In my talk I will present how we combine neuronal and genetic tools, laser vibrometry and behavioural assays to understand this novel behaviour further. We examine the efficacy of transmission of the signals through a variety of substrates such as fruits and plants and describe how the vibratory frequencies and amplitudes vary across substrates. We build ethograms to identify how signal transmission within each substrate impacts the courting pair and females’ responses. We also gain insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the generation of the vibrations by the male and the vibration-reception modality in the female, which are both necessary for accuracy of the seismic communication.

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