Dynamics of Social Behavior in Fruit Fly Larvae
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We quantified the extent and dynamics of social interactions among fruit fly larvae over time. Both a wild-type laboratory population and a recently-caught strain of larvae spontaneously formed social foraging groups. Levels of aggregation initially increased during larval development and then declined with the wandering stage before pupation. We show that larvae aggregated more on hard than soft food, and more at sites where we had previously broken the surface of the food. Groups of larvae initiated burrowing sooner than solitary individuals, indicating that one potential benefit of larval aggregations is an improved ability to dig and burrow into the food substrate. We also show that two closely related species, D. melanogaster and D. simulans, differ in their tendency to aggregate, which may reflect different evolutionary histories. Our protocol for quantifying social behavior in larvae uncovered robust social aggregations in this simple model, which is highly amenable to neurogenetic analyses, and can serve for future research into the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior.
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