A method for quantifying aggression in male Drosophila melanogaster

Nat Protoc. 2007;2(11):2712-8. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2007.404.


Aggressive behavior is a complex social behavior that is difficult to measure. Here, we describe a simple method for the quantitative analysis of aggression in male Drosophila melanogaster. Traditional measurements of aggressive behavior have relied on a territorial context with a food territory and a female as factors that induce or enhance aggression. The protocol described here is devoid of a food territory or a female, making it simpler than most existing methods used to measure aggressive behavior. Multiple pairs of males are tested simultaneously to obtain an average fighting score. Four parameters are used to quantify the behavior: frequency, index, latency and intensity of fighting based on unambiguous offensive fighting behaviors. The assay takes 15 min, during which time a frequency score is obtained for 20-35 pairs simultaneously. More in-depth analysis, including latency, index and intensity, can be performed on the videotaped record of the experiment. The assay is highly reproducible and requires limited resources in a simple setup.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Behavioral Research / instrumentation
  • Behavioral Research / methods*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Male