Aggression in Drosophila

Behav Neurosci. 2015 Oct;129(5):549-63. doi: 10.1037/bne0000089. Epub 2015 Sep 7.


Aggression is used by essentially all species of animals to gain access to desired resources, including territory, food, and potential mates: Fruit flies are no exception. In Drosophila, both males and females compete in same sex fights for resources, but only males establish hierarchical relationships. Many investigators now study aggression using the fruit fly model, mainly because (a) aggression in fruit flies is a quantifiable well-defined and easily evoked behavior; (b) powerful genetic methods allow investigators to manipulate genes of interest at any place or time during embryonic, larval, pupal or adult life, and while flies are behaving; (c) the growth of the relatively new field of optogenetics makes physiological studies possible at single neuron levels despite the small sizes of neurons and other types of cells in fly brains; and (d) the rearing of fly stocks with their short generation times and limited growth space requirements can easily be performed at relatively low cost in most laboratories. This review begins with an examination of the behavior, both from a historical perspective and then from the birth of the "modern" era of studies of aggression in fruit flies including its quantitative analysis. The review continues with examinations of the roles of genes, neurotransmitters and neurohormones, peptides, nutritional and metabolic status, and surface cuticular hydrocarbons in the initiation and maintenance of aggression. It concludes with suggestions for future studies with this important model system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male