Many animal species show aggression to gain mating partners and to protect territories and other resources from competitors. Both male and female fruit flies of the species Drosophila melanogaster exhibit aggression in same-sex pairings, but the strategies used are sexually dimorphic. We have begun to explore the biological basis for the differing aggression strategies, and the cues promoting one form of aggression over the other. Here, we describe a line of genetically masculinized females that switch between male and female aggression patterns based on the sexual identity of their opponents. When these masculinized females are paired with more aggressive opponents, they increase the amount of male-like aggression they use, but do not alter the level of female aggression. This suggests that male aggression may be more highly responsive to behavioral cues than female aggression. Although the masculinized females of this line show opponent-dependent changes in aggression and courtship behavior, locomotor activity and sleep are unaffected. Thus, the driver line used may specifically masculinize neurons involved in social behavior. A discussion of possible different roles of male and female aggression in fruit flies is included here. These results can serve as precursors to future experiments aimed at elucidating the circuitry and triggering cues underlying sexually dimorphic aggressive behavior.

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