Heritable variation in courtship patterns in Drosophila melanogaster

G3 (Bethesda). 2015 Feb 3;5(4):531-9. doi: 10.1534/g3.114.014811.


Little is known about the genetic basis of naturally occurring variation for sexually selected behavioral traits. Drosophila melanogaster, with its rich repertoire of courtship behavior and genomic and genetic resources, is an excellent model organism for addressing this question. We assayed a genetically diverse panel of lines with full genome sequences, the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel, to assess the heritability of variation in courtship behavior and mating progression. We subsequently used these data to quantify natural variation in transition probabilities between courtship behaviors. We found heritable variation along the expected trajectory for courtship behaviors, including the tendency to initiate courtship and rate of progression through courtship, suggesting a genetic basis to male modulation of courtship behavior based on feedback from unrelated, outbred, and genetically identical females. We assessed the genetic basis of variation of the transition with the greatest heritability--from copulation to no engagement with the female--and identified variants in Serrate and Furin 1 as well as many other polymorphisms on the chromosome 3R associated with this transition. Our findings suggest that courtship is a highly dynamic behavior with both social and genetic inputs, and that males may play an important role in courtship initiation and duration.

Keywords: DGRP; GWAS; behavior; ethogram; quantitative genetics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Female
  • Furin / genetics
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Jagged-1 Protein
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Serrate-Jagged Proteins
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Jagged-1 Protein
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Ser protein, Drosophila
  • Serrate-Jagged Proteins
  • Fur1 protein, Drosophila
  • Furin