Flying Drosophila show sex-specific attraction to fly-labelled food

Sci Rep. 2019 Oct 18;9(1):14947. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-51351-1.


Animals searching for food and sexual partners often use odourant mixtures combining food-derived molecules and pheromones. For orientation, the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster uses three types of chemical cues: (i) the male volatile pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA), (ii) sex-specific cuticular hydrocarbons (CHs; and CH-derived compounds), and (iii) food-derived molecules resulting from microbiota activity. To evaluate the effects of these chemicals on odour-tracking behaviour, we tested Drosophila individuals in a wind tunnel. Upwind flight and food preference were measured in individual control males and females presented with a choice of two food sources labelled by fly lines producing varying amounts of CHs and/or cVA. The flies originated from different species or strains, or their microbiota was manipulated. We found that (i) fly-labelled food could attract-but never repel-flies; (ii) the landing frequency on fly-labelled food was positively correlated with an increased flight duration; (iii) male-but not female or non-sex-specific-CHs tended to increase the landing frequency on fly-labelled food; (iv) cVA increased female-but not male-preference for cVA-rich food; and (v) microbiota-derived compounds only affected male upwind flight latency. Therefore, sex pheromones interact with food volatile chemicals to induce sex-specific flight responses in Drosophila.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Food
  • Hydrocarbons / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Microbiota
  • Odorants
  • Oleic Acids / chemistry*
  • Ovum
  • Pheromones / chemistry*
  • Sex Attractants / chemistry
  • Sex Factors
  • Smell


  • 11-cis-vaccenyl acetate
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Oleic Acids
  • Pheromones
  • Sex Attractants