Research highlight

Flies learn to smell friend from foe

Nature Neuroscience

June 20, 2011

Aggressive behavior displayed by one male fruit fly to another male fly is dependent on their previous social encounter and pheromone detection, reports a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience.

Yi Rao and colleagues found that pre-exposure to male pheromones dampens male fruit fly aggression. At first, a male fly that detects another male’s odor will be aggressive, but this response is normally reduced after social grouping of male flies. The authors found that the initial aggression is caused by the pheromone activating one type of olfactory receptor, but that over time, a different receptor is activated and causes a decrease in aggressive behavior.

These results help explain the regulation of aggression in fruit flies, and suggest a potential chemical method to reduce this type of behavior in other animals. They also show that the same pheromone can cause two different behaviors depending on the duration and social context of pheromone exposure.

doi: 10.1038/nn.2836

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