D. persimilis courtship shows some flexibility and courting males sometimes perform an elaborate postural display in addition to the standard courtship behaviours shared by most Drosophila species. This postural display includes the acrobatic contortion and tremulation of their abdomen, accompanied by the generation of substrate-borne vibrations, and they proffer a nutritional droplet to the female. Here, we use courtship and choice assays to ask what triggers this display and what advantages males may gain from it during courtship. In pair assays, we found no differences in the courtship duration and copulation success between displaying and non-displaying males. In trio assays, however, the female always mated with the male who performed the display. To investigate what promotes the male display, we varied the level of receptivity of the female and studied the impact of a second male. We found that rejection by the female does not induce the male to display, contrary to what was previously suggested. We present evidence that the male display is in fact promoted by the presence of an attentive and sexually receptive female and the absence of male competition, with the greatest exhibition rate obtained if the courted female is starved. These findings provide valuable information about the social ecology of flies, and how internal and external cues influence sexual behaviours and mate choice.
Keywords: Drosophila; behaviour; biotremology; competition; copulation; courtship; feeding; persimilis; pseudoobscura; receptivity; rejection; tremulation.