Naive males court both virgin and mated females but learn through experience to discriminate between them, thus minimizing futile investments in nonreceptive female flies. In the laboratory, we can exploit the innate courtship enthusiasm of males and manipulate their behavior by placing them with a nonreceptive female (immature virgin females, decapitated mature virgin females, or mature mated females), termed as the courtship suppression/conditioning assay. Early studies showed that male flies that experience failure to mate upon interaction with nonreceptive previously mated females show decreased motivation to court (courtship suppression). Courtship suppression is an important experimental paradigm for studying genes and neuronal circuits that mediate short- and long-term memory. The anti-aphrodisiac male-specific pheromone 11-cis-vaccenyl-acetate plays a key role in this conditioned response, as male flies learn to associate its presence on mated females with the failure to mate.
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