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Sexual response of male Drosophila to honey bee queen mandibular pheromone: implications for genetic studies of social insects A Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

Croft, Justin R., Liu, Tom, Camiletti, Alison L., Simon, Anne F., Thompson, Graham J.
Journal of comparative physiology 2017 v.203 no.2 pp. 143-149
Drosophila melanogaster, ancestry, females, fruit flies, insect biology, males, models, mutation, pheromones, queen honey bees, sexual dimorphism, social insects
Honey bees secrete a queen mandibular pheromone that renders workers reproductively altruistic and drones sexually attentive. This sex-specific function of QMP may have evolved from a sexually dimorphic signaling mechanism derived from pre-social ancestors. If so, there is potential for pre-social insects to respond to QMP, and in a manner that is comparable to its normal effect on workers and drones. Remarkably, QMP applied to female Drosophila does induce worker-like qualities [Camiletti et al. (Entomol Exp Appl 147:262, 2013)], and we here extend this comparison to examine the effects of bee pheromone on male fruit flies. We find that male Drosophila melanogaster consistently orient towards a source of queen pheromone in a T-maze, suggesting a recruitment response comparable to the pheromone’s normal effect on drones. Moreover, exposure to QMP renders male flies more sexually attentive; they display intensified pre-copulatory behavior towards conspecific females. We can inhibit this sexual effect through a loss-of-olfactory-function mutation, which suggests that the pheromone-responsive behavioral mechanism is olfactory-driven. These pheromone-induced changes to male Drosophila behavior suggest that aspects of sexual signaling are conserved between these two distantly related taxa. Our results highlight a role for Drosophila as a genetically tractable pre-social model for studies of social insect biology.