Courtship song in Drosophila melanogaster: a differential effect on male–female locomotor activity

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Abstract:

The courtship song of male Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830 is involved in species recognition and sexual stimulation. This signal is usually addressed to the female to reduce her locomotor activity, thereby facilitating copulation. However, no accurate quantification of her locomotion has been made. To examine the effect of courtship song on locomotor behaviour of both sexes, we used a video-tracking system that allowed for the quantification of two indicators of activity level: distance moved and movement duration. First, we showed that the broadcast of the courtship song alone produced no effect on female locomotion. Females reduced their locomotor activity only when acoustical stimulation was placed in a natural courtship context (i.e., in the presence of a male). This suggests that the sum of visual, tactile, acoustic, and chemical stimuli provided by the male may act together to trigger female receptivity. Second, our playback experiments showed a strong stimulating effect of courtship song (particularly of the pulse component) on the locomotor activity of isolated males, suggesting that this signal probably plays a role in male stimulation. Courtship song has an opposite effect on male/female locomotor activity in D. melanogaster.

Le chant de cour du mâle Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830 intervient dans la reconnaissance spécifique et la stimulation sexuelle. On considère habituellement que ce signal s'adresse à la femelle et qu'il réduit son activité locomotrice, facilitant ainsi la copulation. Cependant, aucune quantification précise de la locomotion n'a été réalisée. Afin de rechercher les effets du chant sur le comportement locomoteur des deux sexes, nous avons utilisé un système de suivi vidéo permettant une quantification fine de deux indicateurs du niveau d'activité, la distance parcourue et la durée du déplacement. Nous avons d'abord montré que la seule diffusion d'un chant n'a pas d'effet sur la locomotion des femelles. Celles-ci réduisent leur activité locomotrice uniquement lorsque la stimulation acoustique est replacée dans un contexte naturel de cour, c'est-à-dire en présence d'un mâle. Ceci laisse croire que les stimuli visuels, tactiles, chimiques et acoustiques produits par le mâle agissent ensemble sur l'activité locomotrice de la femelle. Ensuite, un important effet stimulant du chant, particulièrement de la composante pulsée, sur l'activité locomotrice de mâles isolés indique que ce signal joue peut-être également un rôle dans la stimulation des mâles. Le chant de cour a donc un effet opposé sur l'activité locomotrice des mâles et des femelles D. melanogaster.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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