Courtship learning in Drosophila melanogaster: diverse plasticity of a reproductive behavior

Learn Mem. 2009 Nov 19;16(12):743-50. doi: 10.1101/lm.956309. Print 2009 Dec.


Mechanisms for identifying appropriate mating partners are critical for species propagation. In many species, the male uses multiple sensory modalities to search for females and to subsequently determine if they are fit and receptive. Males can also use the information they acquire in this process to change their courtship behavior and reduce courtship of classes of targets that are inappropriate or unreceptive. In Drosophila, courtship plasticity, in the form of both nonassociative and associative learning, has been documented-the type of learning depending on the nature of the trainer. The conditions in which the male is presented with the training target can profoundly alter the cues that he finds salient and the longevity of the memory that he forms. With the exception of habituation and sensitization, these types of plasticity have an operant component in that the male must be courting to respond to the behavior-altering cues. Courtship plasticity is therefore a complex and rich range of behaviors rather than a single entity. Our understanding of these plastic behaviors has been enhanced by recent advances in our understanding of the circuitry underlying courtship itself and the identification of chemical cues that drive and modify the behavior. Courtship learning is providing a window into how animals can use a variety of sensory inputs to modulate a decision making process at many levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology
  • Animals
  • Association Learning
  • Courtship / psychology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Sensation / physiology