Nav: Home

How fruit flies flock together in orderly clusters

January 21, 2020

Opposing desires to congregate and maintain some personal space drive fruit flies to form orderly clusters, according to a study published today in eLife.

Many animals ranging from swarming insects to wildebeests form large, orderly groups. This collective behaviour is often crucial to survival. It may help animals find food, escape predators, enhance the way they sense their surroundings and augment their decision making. But the processes that enable these group gatherings are not well understood.

It can be difficult to study large animal groups in the wild, but studying smaller animals in the laboratory can help scientists tease apart the processes that drive animal clustering step by step. For this work, researchers in China looked at what drives clustering in the sociable fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.

"Analysing the aggregation process in fruit flies would help us understand how individuals interact to form a social group and what senses are used during this process," says lead author Lifen Jiang, a PhD student at the School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei. "Looking at this process in fruit flies may give us some insight into more complex collective behaviours in other animals."

In their experiments, Jiang and the team discovered that fruit flies placed in shallow, covered dishes spontaneously form clusters with regular spacing between flies. By observing the flies, the scientists learned that these formations are driven by fly-fly interactions in which the flies use their legs and wings to touch each other and then establish some personal space. But when the team systematically interfered with their senses, including sight, odour and touch, this stopped the flies from forming these neat clusters. "Depriving fruit flies of their senses resulted in abnormal responses to encountering another fly and a high failure rate of cluster formation," Jiang explains.

The researchers then showed that the flies' physical interactions with each other switch on their sensory nerve cells. Without these cells, they are unable to establish the usual socially acceptable distances between themselves and other flies that are necessary to form organised clusters.

"Our findings suggest that self-organisation in flies might rely on just a few simple rules," says senior author Yan Zhu, PhD, Professor at the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. "More studies are now needed to determine whether similar rules govern gatherings in larger animals."
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Emergence of social cluster by collective pairwise encounters in Drosophila' can be freely accessed online at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.51921. Contents, including text, figures and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, Senior Press Officer
eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife is a non-profit organisation inspired by research funders and led by scientists. Our mission is to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science. We publish important research in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences, including Neuroscience, which is selected and evaluated by working scientists and made freely available online without delay. eLife also invests in innovation through open-source tool development to accelerate research communication and discovery. Our work is guided by the communities we serve. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.

To read the latest Neuroscience published in eLife, visit https://elifesciences.org/subjects/neuroscience.

eLife

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Nina
Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina's music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.  Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.