Figure_6 from Behavioural elements and sensory cues involved in sexual isolation between Drosophila melanogaster strains

Sensory cues exchanged during courtship are crucial for mate choice: if they show intraspecific divergence, this may cause or reinforce sexual isolation between strains, ultimately leading to speciation. There is a strong asymmetric sexual isolation between Drosophila melanogaster females from Zimbabwe (Z) and males from all other populations (M). While M and Z flies of both sexes show different cuticular pheromones, this variation is only partly responsible for the intraspecific isolation effect. Male acoustic signals are also partly involved in sexual isolation. We examined strain-specific courtship behaviour sequences to determine which body parts and sensory appendages may be involved in sexual isolation. Using two strains representative of the Z- and M-types, we manipulated sensory cues and the social context; we then measured the consequence of these manipulations on courtship and copulation. Our data suggest that Z females mated best with males whose sensory characteristics matched those of Z males in both quantity and quality. M females were less choosy and much less influenced by the sensory and social contexts. Differences in emission and reception of sensory signals seen between Z and M flies may lead to the concerted evolution of multiple sensory channel, thereby shaping a population-specific mate recognition system.