Smell-mediated response in flies — The dance video

Just as — and yet completely unlike the way — you’ll not see anything quite like the bee dance created and performed by Michael Smith, you’ll not see anything to match this dance video by Cedric Tan. He made the video, called “Smell mediated response to relatedness of potential mates“, and entered it into the 2011 Dance Your Dissertation competition. It is, in our view, wonderful:


BONUS: For those who prefer words, Tan describes the action:

Our dance depicts the social and sexual behavior of the common fruit fly. Fruit flies are attracted by the smell of rotting fruit where they collect, feed and interact. Males compete against one another for female mates. In addition, males perform a sequence of courtship behaviors. First, they tap and chase the females. Thereafter, they encircle the females while playing a song by vibrating their wings. Then, the males orient themselves at the rear of the females’ abdomen to lick their body. Finally, males attempt copulation. Females can reject the males’ advances with several responses such as flicking of wings and kicking.

This choreography also illustrates how male-male relatedness can reduce the intensity of male-male competition and affect female choice. When two males are related, they are predicted to show less aggression towards each other. Also, females preferentially mate with males that are related to the first mates because there might be immunological and survival costs associated with mating with males that are unrelated to their first mate. Furthermore, we demonstrate the importance of smell in mediating the recognition of relatedness.

BONUS: Tan was also involved in the discovery of the yellow crazy ant in Singapore’s Primary Forest.