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Seismic communication in courting Drosophila

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Individuals of many species communicate by means of seismic vibrations that are conveyed through the substrate: examples are elephants, frogs and spiders. However, none of these animals were suitable for genetics or neurobiology. I discovered that seismic vibratory signalling is crucial to courtship in Drosophila melanogaster; surprisingly, this had been missed over decades of research. During courtship, males rapidly quiver their abdomens and produce seismic vibrations in the substrate that are perceived by females. Females respond by remaining stationary and allowing the males to copulate. Drosophila is the ideal model to investigate the genetic and neuronal bases of both signalling and reception of these vibrations. Using a combination of behavioural assays, laser vibrometry, laser ablation and neuroanatomy, I am now investigating the neuromuscular circuitry responsible for the generation of these seismic signals and the sensory systems needed for their reception.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Fly Meetings series.

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