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.