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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 20;6(1):e16436. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016436.

Natural variation in decision-making behavior in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology Department, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America.


There has been considerable recent interest in using Drosophila melanogaster to investigate the molecular basis of decision-making behavior. Deciding where to place eggs is likely one of the most important decisions for a female fly, as eggs are vulnerable and larvae have limited motility. Here, we show that many natural genotypes of D. melanogaster prefer to lay eggs near nutritious substrate, rather than in nutritious substrate. These preferences are highly polymorphic in both degree and direction, with considerable heritability (0.488) and evolvability.Relative preferences are modulated by the distance between options and the overall concentration of ethanol, suggesting Drosophila integrate many environmental factors when making oviposition decisions. As oviposition-related decisions can be efficiently assessed by simply counting eggs, oviposition behavior is an excellent model for understanding information processing in insects. Associating natural genetic polymorphisms with decision-making variation will shed light on the molecular basis of host choice behavior, the evolutionary maintenance of genetic variation, and the mechanistic nature of preference variation in general.

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