Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2011 Vy A. Vo. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Kathleen King Siwicki


The courtship behavior of Drosophila melanogaster has been investigated in great detail, particularly with regards to how male flies learn which females will be receptive to his courtship advances (Griffith and Ejima 2009), However, the role of the female in this interaction is notably understudied, despite the implications of female mate choice on sexual selection and evolution. This study aims to determine whether females can learn to change their sexual receptivity based on previous experience with mature males. To do this, we developed a measure of sexual receptivity based on courting time and validated it by comparing females of different ages. We also examined male courtship behavior in detail to ensure that their behavior did not confound our results. Once these measures were in place, we exposed very young females to males of two different strains of D. melanogaster, Canton-S and Tai-2. These strains vary in their composition of cuticular pheromones, and thereby attractiveness, to Canton-S females (Scott 1994, Grillet et al. 2006), We found that previous experience with any male increases the sexual receptivity of 3 day old females. Effects of early experience were largely not significant in 2 day old or 7 day old females. We propose that this novel observation of female learning can contribute to the mechanistic understanding of learning and memory, sexual dimorphism in the brain, and sexual selection.