A New Approach to Study Mating Preferences in Fruit Flies

Sabine Noebel

February 9, 2021, 14:00–15:00


Room Zoom


One way how individuals can gather information about potential mating partners is watching the mate choice of their conspecifics. Mate copying occurs when a naïve female observes the mate choice of another female (the demonstrator) for a specific male phenotype and uses this social information to build her own mating preference. It is a widespread strategy know from many species including the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. One aim when doing experiments with animals is always refining the methods. As we are using thousands of flies in each experiment the goal was to reduce the number of animals used and to develop a new set-up that allows full control over the demonstration phase. Thus, we took pictures of copulating flies and showed them during the demonstration phase instead of living flies. In a first experiment, we tested if fruit flies copy the information they receive from watching a photograph of copulating conspecifics. As this was surprisingly efficient, we played with the time observer females could watch the pictures to tested if demonstration length has an influence on copying behavior and manipulated the pictures to find out to which physical traits females pay attention to. Finally, we used the pictures in a long-term memory experiment to check if the we can generate a long-lasting mating preference. In summary, using pictures is very efficient and it is a great tool for future studies.


Sabine Noebel, A New Approach to Study Mating Preferences in Fruit Flies, IAST Lunch Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, February 9, 2021, 14:00–15:00, room Zoom.