Drosophila New Song Mode Discovery Reveals Hidden Structure in Sensory and Neural Drivers of Behavior

Male fruit flies woo potential mates with a song created by beating their wings. During courtship, Drosophila males produce not two, but three song modes to attract their female mates. Previous thought was one sine and one pulse mode, but researchers from the Murthy Lab have now discovered an additional pulse mode from D. melanogaster males.

The male fruit fly selects from one of his two distinct pulse modes based upon his distance to the female. The behavior of the female is affected differentially by the three song modes, and the ac
tivity levels in the song pathway neurons affect song mode choice.

“It was clear that there was this additional mode we’d missed—three modes of song instead of two,” Murthy tells The Scientist in the press release Fruit Fly Males Woo Females with Three Songs, Not Two“We even showed that the way in which males produce these three modes utilizes different wing positions. In other words, this additional mode was not just an artifact of our analysis, but a distinct signal produced by the male fly.”

Discovery of a New Song Mode in Drosophila Reveals Hidden Structure in the Sensory and Neural Drivers of Behavior
Image caption: Left: During courtship, the male Drosophila melanogaster (gray trace) chases the female (pink trace) and vibrates his wings to generate a courtship song. Right: A two-dimensional distribution representing the density of 21,104 waveforms from 47 individual D. melanogaster males. Four main clusters are divided by thick white lines and correspond to noise, sine song (three submodes), and two distinct pulse song modes: slow (two submodes) and fast. J. CLEMENS ET AL., CURRENT BIOLOGY, 2018