How flies respond to honey bee pheromone: the role of the foraging gene on reproductive response to queen mandibular pheromone
In this study we test one central prediction from sociogenomic theory—that social and non-social taxa share common genetic toolkits that regulate reproduction in response to environmental cues. We exposed Drosophila females of rover ( for R) and sitter ( for s) genotypes to an ovary-suppressing pheromone derived from the honeybee Apis mellifera. Surprisingly, queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) affected several measures of fitness in flies, and in a manner comparable to the pheromone's normal effect on bee workers. QMP-treated sitter flies had smaller ovaries that contained fewer eggs than did untreated controls. QMP-treated rover flies, by contrast, showed a more variable pattern that only sometimes resulted in ovary inhibition, while a third strain of fly that contains a sitter mutant allele in a rover background ( for s2) showed no ovarian response to QMP. Taken together, our results suggest that distinctly non-social insects have some capacity to respond to social cues, but that this response varies with fly genotype. In general, the interspecific response is consistent with a conserved gene set affecting reproductive physiology. The differential response among strains in particular suggests that for is itself important for modulating the fly's pheromonal response.