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Index > News Blog > News > ScienceDaily: 'Love Song' of the Fly Shows How Nervous System Initiates, Controls and Utilized Behavior

ScienceDaily: 'Love Song' of the Fly Shows How Nervous System Initiates, Controls and Utilized Behavior

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Neurobiologists at Vienna's Research Institute of Molecular Pathology used the mating ritual of the fruit fly to study how the nervous system initiates, controls and utilizes behavior. Using newly developed thermogenetic methods, the researchers were able to initiate the courtship song of the male fly by "remote control," and study the involved neural networks.

Male fruit flies of the Drosophila melanogaster species perform a complex courtship ritual to attract the attention of female flies and make them amenable to mating. As part of the ritual, the male fly performs a "song" by extending a wing and vibrating it. The pulsating acoustic signal produced by this exercise sounds rather like static crackling or humming to the human ear. However, the female fly finds the sound irresistible. Singing is an important part of the fly's courtship; how well the male performs its song is crucial for the success of its mating.

Under natural circumstances, the sight and smell of a female fly induce courtship in the male. At the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, scientists have developed a kind of molecular "remote control" to initiate the ritual. Anne von Philipsborn, a biologist and Postdoc in the lab of IMP Director Barry Dickson, works with genetically modified fruit flies. By raising the ambient temperature, she can get an isolated male fly -- in the absence of a female, and presumably not thinking at all about sex -- to become aroused and initiate courtship.

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