Behavioral and neuronal underpinnings of safety in numbers in fruit flies

Clara H. Ferreira*, Marta A. Moita*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Living in a group allows individuals to decrease their defenses, enabling other beneficial behaviors such as foraging. The detection of a threat through social cues is widely reported, however, the safety cues that guide animals to break away from a defensive behavior and resume alternate activities remain elusive. Here we show that fruit flies display a graded decrease in freezing behavior, triggered by an inescapable threat, with increasing group sizes. Furthermore, flies use the cessation of movement of other flies as a cue of threat and its resumption as a cue of safety. Finally, we find that lobula columnar neurons, LC11, mediate the propensity for freezing flies to resume moving in response to the movement of others. By identifying visual motion cues, and the neurons involved in their processing, as the basis of a social safety cue this study brings new insights into the neuronal basis of safety in numbers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4182
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date21 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Cite this