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Viral infection causes sex-specific changes in fruit fly social aggregation behaviour

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Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology letters
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019


Host behavioural changes following infection are common and could be important determinants of host behavioural competence to transmit pathogens. Identifying potential sources of variation in sickness behaviours is therefore central to our understanding of disease transmission. Here, we test how group social aggregation and individual locomotor activity vary between different genotypes of male and female fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) following septic infection with Drosophila C Virus (DCV). We find genetic-based variation in both locomotor activity and social aggregation, but we did not detect an effect of DCV infection on fly activity or sleep patterns within the initial days following infection. However, DCV infection caused sex-specific effects on social aggregation, as male flies in most genetic backgrounds increased the distance to their nearest neighbour when infected. We discuss possible causes for these differences in the context of individual variation in immunity and their potential consequences for disease transmission.

    Research areas

  • social aggregation, locomotor activity, Drosophila Activity Monitor, Drosophila, Drosophila C Virus, sexual dimorphism

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