Same gene, different mating techniques in flies

November 6, 2017, Society for Neuroscience
The steps of mating behavior in Drosophila subobscura include tapping (A1), scissoring (A2), midleg swing (A3), proboscis extension (A4), nuptial gift (A5), wing extension (A6) and attempted copulation (A7). Credit: Tanaka et al., JNeurosci (2017)

A study of two related species of fruit fly published in JNeurosci reveals that a gene known to regulate behavior for attracting a mate in one species gives rise to unique wooing techniques observed in the other species.

The neural circuitry underlying courtship behavior has been previously identified in the fruit fly species Drosophila melanogaster. These circuits are composed of neurons expressing the fruitless gene, which could form differently in different species.

Daisuke Yamamoto and colleagues explored the fruitless circuity in Drosophila subobscura, a related species that engages in unconventional mating tactics such as a male giving a potential mate a regurgitated "nuptial gift."

The researchers confirmed that these circuits, which are similar to but distinct from those of D. melanogaster, are required for courtship and found that artificially activating them with light induced species-specific mating behaviors. The study points to the possibility that the same neurons in both species evolved to generate different behaviors as a result of acquired gene expression.

Further research and new genetic techniques are required to test this hypothesis.

Male Drosophila subobscura courtship behavior is composed of tapping, scissoring, proboscis extension, midleg swing, nuptial gift, dance, wing extension and attempted copulation. Credit: Tanaka et al., JNeurosciM (2017)

Explore further: Drosophila buzzatii fruit fly females may use courtship songs to pick same-species mates

More information: Optogenetic activation of the fruitless-labeled circuitry in Drosophila subobscura males induces mating motor acts, Journal of Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1943-17.2017

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