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Department of Zoology



I graduated with the Master's degree Biologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire du Dévelopement from the University of Orsay Paris-6. During my PhD I studied the genetics and development of sensory perception in Drosophila at the Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology (L.M.B.), Cambridge, UK. During my EMBO long-term fellowship at the University of Oxford I reported substrate-borne vibrational communication in Drosophila. 



Courtship in Drosophila melanogaster consists of a series of stereotyped actions by the male to first assess the female's suitability and then elicit her acceptance of copulation, which is signaled by her ceasing to walk. The male and female communicate via vision, air-borne sounds and by pheromones, but it remained unclear what cues trigger female immobility. I described a further component of Drosophila courtship behaviour that has, surprisingly, been overlooked. I showed by video recordings and laser vibrometry that the abdomen of the male vibrates rhythmically ("tremulates") to generate substrate-borne vibrations that have a repetition rate of about 6 pulses per second. I obtained evidence that the female stops walking and becomes receptive mainly because she senses these vibrations and not, as had previously been suggested, as a response to the air-borne song produced when the male extends and flutters one wing. The neural circuits expressing the sex determination genes fruitless and doublesex are required for the tremulatory behaviour. Moreover, these abdominal tremulations and associated vibrations, as well as their effect on female receptivity, are conserved in other Drosophila species. Substrate-borne vibrations are an ancient form of communication that is widespread in invertebrates and vertebrates. We are now investigating the neuromuscular circuitry responsible for the generation of these substrate-borne signals and the sensory systems needed for their reception.



Key publications: 


McKelvey Eleanor G.Z. , Gyles James P. , Michie Kyle, Barquín Pancorbo Violeta , Sober Louisa, Kruszewski Laura E., Chan Alice and Fabre Caroline C.G. Drosophila females receive male substrate-borne signals through specific leg neurons during courtship. Current Biology 2021, 31, 1-11

McKelvey E.G.Z. & Fabre, C.C. Recent neurogenetics findings in insect courtship behaviour. Current Opinion in Insect Science 2019, 36

Hernández, M.V. & Fabre, C.C. Triggers of the postural display of courtship in Drosophila persimilis flies. J Insect Behav 2017, 30 (5):582-594.

Hernández, M.V. & Fabre, C.C. The Elaborate Postural Display of Courting Drosophila persimilis Flies Produces Substrate-Borne Vibratory Signals. J Insect Behav 2016, 29 (5): 578-590.

Medina I., Casal J., Fabre C.C. Do circadian genes and ambient temperature affect substrate-borne signaling during Drosophila courtship? Biology Open 2015,  4: 1549-1557.

Fabre C.C., Hedwig B., Conduit G., Lawrence P.A., Goodwin S.G., Casal J. Substrate-borne vibratory communication during courtship in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Biology 2012, 22 (22): 2180-2185.

Krzemien J., Fabre C.C., Casal J., Lawrence P.A. The muscle pattern of the Drosophila abdomen depends on a subdivision of the anterior compartment of each segment. Development 2012, 139(1): 75-83.

Fabre C.C., Casal J., Lawrence P.A. Mechanosensilla in the adult abdomen of Drosophila: engrailed and slit help to corral the peripheral sensory axons into segmental bundles. Development 2010, 137(17): 2885-94.

Fabre C.C., Casal J., Lawrence P.A. The abdomen of Drosophila: does planar cell polarity orient the neurons of mechanosensory bristles? Neural Development 2008, 3:12.


Other publications: 

Fabre C.C. Shake it! Body language in animals. BlueSci 2014, 30: 10-11.

Rezával C., Fabre C.C., Goodwin S.F. Invertebrate neuroethology: food play and sex. Current biology 2011, 21(23): 960-962.

Pulver S.R., Cognigni P., Denholm B., Fabre C.C., Gu W.X., Linneweber G., Prieto-Godino L., Urbancic V., Zwart M., Miguel-Aliaga I. Why flies? Inexpensive public engagement exercises to explain the value of basic biomedical research on Drosophila melanogaster. Advances in Physiology Education 2011, 35(4): 384-92.


Contact Details

Accepting applications for PhD students.


Person keywords: 
Insect Ecology
Image Visualisation
quantitative behaviour
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Drosophila genetics