Do circadian genes and ambient temperature affect substrate-borne signalling during Drosophila courtship?

Biol Open. 2015 Oct 30;4(11):1549-57. doi: 10.1242/bio.014332.

Abstract

Courtship vibratory signals can be air-borne or substrate-borne. They convey distinct and species-specific information from one individual to its prospective partner. Here, we study the substrate-borne vibratory signals generated by the abdominal quivers of the Drosophila male during courtship; these vibrations travel through the ground towards courted females and coincide with female immobility. It is not known which physical parameters of the vibrations encode the information that is received by the females and induces them to pause. We examined the intervals between each vibratory pulse, a feature that was reported to carry information for animal communication. We were unable to find evidence of periodic variations in the lengths of these intervals, as has been reported for fly acoustical signals. Because it was suggested that the genes involved in the circadian clock may also regulate shorter rhythms, we search for effects of period on the interval lengths. Males that are mutant for the period gene produced vibrations with significantly altered interpulse intervals; also, treating wild type males with constant light results in similar alterations to the interpulse intervals. Our results suggest that both the clock and light/dark cycles have input into the interpulse intervals of these vibrations. We wondered if we could alter the interpulse intervals by other means, and found that ambient temperature also had a strong effect. However, behavioural analysis suggests that only extreme ambient temperatures can affect the strong correlation between female immobility and substrate-borne vibrations.

Keywords: Behaviour; Circadian; Courtship; Period; Substrate vibrations; Temperature.