How do animals use information that may be an important, yet unreliable, cue for something they are searching for? To answer this question I am studying the behavioral responses of freely walking and flying fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, to a range of odors with different levels of specificity to fermenting fruit (a fruit flies primary food source and social gathering space). Thanks to genetic tools available in the fly, I am able to silence and activate individual neurons in the brain with high temporal and spatial specificity, making it possible to probe which parts of the brain are responsible for their behavioral choices.
Behavior is a complex subject; with over 16,000 fly-hours of detailed data collection with over 1,000 individual animals, there are still some unresolved questions. Stay tuned for results soon!