Research highlight

Animal behaviour: How female fruit flies size up their suitors

Scientific Reports

October 25, 2012

Female fruit flies fine-tune their use of information gleaned from observing males’ previous mating activities to make adaptive mating decisions, research in Scientific Reports indicates. The findings suggest that female fruit flies have evolved the capacity to distinguish between two familiar individuals and use this to avoid recently mated males.

Mating with a semen-limited male fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) ― one with insufficient sperm to fertilize all of a female’s eggs ― is thought to impose a high fitness cost to female fruit flies. Adeline Loyau and colleagues show that D. melanogaster females tend to avoid mating with males they have just observed copulating, and that visual public cues are sufficient to elicit this response. They also found that females no longer avoid mating with these males after the males were given enough time to replenish their semen reserves. Females do this using public information extracted from copulations, coupled with the capacity to discriminate between familiar males, the authors suggest. The study was conducted in a laboratory-adapted population, so further research would be needed to test how fruit flies use public information in the wild.

doi: 10.1038/srep00768

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