Many animals exhibit an astonishing ability to form groups of large numbers of individuals. The dynamic properties of such groups have been the subject of intensive investigation. The actual grouping processes and underlying neural mechanisms, however, remain elusive. Here, we established a social clustering paradigm in Drosophila to investigate the principles governing social group formation. Fruit flies spontaneously assembled into a stable cluster mimicking a distributed network. Social clustering was exhibited as a highly dynamic process including all individuals, which participated in stochastic pair-wise encounters mediated by appendage touches. Depriving sensory inputs resulted in abnormal encounter responses and a high failure rate of cluster formation. Furthermore, the social distance of the emergent network was regulated by ppk-specific neurons, which were activated by contact-dependent social grouping. Taken together, these findings revealed the development of an orderly social structure from initially unorganised individuals via collective actions.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.
- Yan Zhu
- Yan Zhu
- Yan Zhu
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Mani Ramaswami, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
© 2020, Jiang et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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