Neural Circuits for Adaptive Behaviors

Summary

Date: 
February 7, 2017 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: 
Northwest 243
About the Speaker
Name: 
Vanessa Ruta
Speaker Affiliation: 
Rockefeller University

Neural Circuits for Adaptive Behaviors

Speciation produces closely related animals that exhibit differences in behavior but little is known about the neural basis for this behavioral variation. In my lab we have been using Drosophila courtship as an entry point to gain insight into how sensory circuit anatomy and function is altered by evolution to produce divergent behaviors. D. melanogaster and D. simulans are closely related species that exhibit premating isolation, in part, due to the production of species-specific female pheromones that attract conspecific males but repel males of other species. Using genetic, functional, and behavioral approaches, we have begun to directly compare the pheromone receptors and circuits in D. melanogaster and D. simulans males to understand how these sister species rely on an opposing interpretation of the same gustatory pheromones for species discrimination.  Our work suggests that species-specific pheromone responses emerge from conservation of peripheral detection mechanisms but diversification of central circuitry and provide insight into how evolution can act on discrete nodes in sensory circuits to generate variations in behavior.