Mapping the stereotyped behaviour of freely moving fruit flies

J R Soc Interface. 2014 Oct 6;11(99):20140672. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0672.


A frequent assumption in behavioural science is that most of an animal's activities can be described in terms of a small set of stereotyped motifs. Here, we introduce a method for mapping an animal's actions, relying only upon the underlying structure of postural movement data to organize and classify behaviours. Applying this method to the ground-based behaviour of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, we find that flies perform stereotyped actions roughly 50% of the time, discovering over 100 distinguishable, stereotyped behavioural states. These include multiple modes of locomotion and grooming. We use the resulting measurements as the basis for identifying subtle sex-specific behavioural differences and revealing the low-dimensional nature of animal motions.

Keywords: Drosophila; behaviour; phase reconstruction; stereotypy; unsupervised learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Grooming / physiology
  • Locomotion / physiology
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology*
  • Video Recording