Behavioral and neuronal underpinnings of safety in numbers in fruit flies

Clara H Ferreira and Marta A Moita

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Oct 15, 2019
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Received Date: 4th October 19

Living in a group allows individuals to decrease their defenses enabling other beneficial behaviors such as foraging.  The detection of a threat through social cues is widely reported, however the safety cues that guide animals to break away from a defensive behavior and resume alternate activities remain elusive. Here we show that fruit flies displayed a graded decrease in freezing behavior, triggered by an inescapable threat, with increasing group sizes. Furthermore, flies used the cessation of movement of other flies as a cue of threat and its resumption as a cue of safety. Finally, we found that lobula columnar neurons, LC11, mediate the propensity for freezing flies to resume moving in response to the movement of others. By identifying visual motion cues, and the neurons involved in their processing, as the basis of a social safety cue this study brings new insights into the neuronal basis of safety in numbers. 

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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