Cultural Transmission of Mating Preferences in Fruit Flies

Sabine Noebel ( IAST)

September 30, 2022, 12:45–13:45


Room Auditorium 4


We recently showed that the social learning of mating preferences (i.e., mate copying) in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has all the cognitive abilities that can lead to the emergence of persistent cultural traditions of preferring one male type over other types of males, which considerably broadens the taxonomic scope of the cultural process. Surprisingly, fruit flies copy the mate choice of conspeficics in a conformist manner, which to our knowledge is the only example of conformity in mate choice. Based on this finding, we propose a pathway by which conformity in mate choice may have evolved. In addition, we are interested in the cognitive mechanisms of this social learning. Fruit flies have relatively small brains, and many genes and molecular pathways are well conserved (signal transduction, neurotransmitters, etc.), which makes fruit flies an excellent model organism. Up to now, most studies focus on visual or olfactory individual learning and memory but not on social learning (mate copying in our specific case). In aversive olfactory learning tasks, the protein Rutabaga was identified as a coincidence detector needing simultaneous inputs from two stimuli to be fully activated (in olfactory aversive learning electric shocks and an odour). I will present recent results revealing the role of Rutabaga in selective subsets of brain neurons for achieving this specific form of learning. This is the first study showing the neuronal pathways required for social learning in a mate-choice context in an invertebrate.


Sabine Noebel ( IAST), Cultural Transmission of Mating Preferences in Fruit Flies, IAST Lunch Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, September 30, 2022, 12:45–13:45, room Auditorium 4.