We investigated the role of Drosophila larva olfactory system in identification of congeners and aliens. We discuss the importance of these activities in larva navigation across substrates, and the implications for allocation of space and food among species of similar ecologies. Wild type larvae of cosmopolitan D. melanogaster and endemic D. pavani, which cohabit the same breeding sites, used species-specific volatiles to identify conspecifics and aliens moving toward larvae of their species. D. gaucha larvae, a sibling species of D. pavani that is ecologically isolated from D. melanogaster, did not respond to melanogaster odor cues. Similar to D. pavani larvae, the navigation of pavani female x gaucha male hybrids was influenced by conspecific and alien odors, whereas gaucha female x pavani male hybrid larvae exhibited behavior similar to the D. gaucha parent. The two sibling species exhibited substantial evolutionary divergence in processing the odor inputs necessary to identify conspecifics. Orco (Or83b) mutant larvae of D. melanogaster, which exhibit a loss of sense of smell, did not distinguish conspecific from alien larvae, instead moving across the substrate. Syn97CS and rut larvae of D. melanogaster, which are unable to learn but can smell, moved across the substrate as well. The Orco (Or83b), Syn97CS and rut loci are necessary to orient navigation by D. melanogaster larvae. Individuals of the Trana strain of D. melanogaster did not respond to conspecific and alien larval volatiles and therefore navigated randomly across the substrate. By contrast, larvae of the Til-Til strain used larval volatiles to orient their movement. Natural populations of D. melanogaster may exhibit differences in identification of conspecific and alien larvae. Larval locomotion was not affected by the volatiles.
Del Pino, F., Jara, C., Pino, L., Medina-Muñoz, M. C., Alvarez, E., & Godoy-Herrera, R. (2015). The identification of congeners and aliens by drosophila larvae. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136363