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A Gene Mutation Which Changes a Behavior Pattern

Margaret Bastock
Evolution
Vol. 10, No. 4 (Dec., 1956), pp. 421-439
DOI: 10.2307/2407002
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2407002
Page Count: 19
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A Gene Mutation Which Changes a Behavior Pattern
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Abstract

Yellow mutant males of Drosophila melanogaster have reduced success in fertilizing normal females. There is a change in the pattern of courtship which could explain this. The wing display (vibration), which is shown to provide important stimuli perceived by the females' antennae, is given in shorter bouts and at longer intervals. The idea that this behavioral change is indirect is dismissed. It is possible that females might react against changed color or scent, and, by repelling yellow males, thus influence their courtship. This is not supported by (1) analyses of female behavior; (2) comparisons of male behavior to D. sirnulans females which refuse both normal and yellow; (3) comparisons of male success with females lacking visual or olfactory stimuli. Consideration of the possible causal mechanism underlying the courtship pattern suggests that each of the three elements (orientation, vibration and licking) might occur at different thresholds of a fluctuating sexual excitation. A typical 'yellow' pattern with fewer and shorter bouts of 'higher' elements could be explained in terms of low average sexual excitation. This mutation thus changes a behavior pattern probably by affecting sexual motivation. How it does this is not yet known. The nature of the change is of interest because it parallels behavioral differences found between closely related species of animals. Such a change may sometimes be incorporated incidentally into a population if the mutants concerned are selected for other reasons. A courtship change, such as this, might stimulate further evolution which could bring about the sexual isolation of the mutant population. For the reduction of an important stimulus from males might lead females to give weight to other stimuli (perhaps of another sense modality), which in turn would put a selective premium on other elements of the courtship

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