The effect of chemical information on the spatial distribution of fruit flies: I model results

Marjolein E. Lof*, Rampal S. Etienne, James Powell, Maarten de Gee, Lia Hemerik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Animal aggregation is a general phenomenon in ecological systems. Aggregations are generally considered as an evolutionary advantageous state in which members derive the benefits of protection and mate choice, balanced by the costs of limiting resources and competition. In insects, chemical information conveyance plays an important role in finding conspecifics and forming aggregations. In this study, we describe a spatio-temporal simulation model designed to explore and quantify the effects of these infochemicals, i.e., food odors and an aggregation pheromone, on the spatial distribution of a fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) population, where the lower and upper limit of local population size are controlled by an Allee effect and competition. We found that during the spatial expansion and strong growth of the population, the use of infochemicals had a positive effect on population size. The positive effects of reduced mortality at low population numbers outweighed the negative effects of increased mortality due to competition. At low resource densities, attraction toward infochemicals also had a positive effect on population size during recolonization of an area after a local population crash, by decreasing the mortality due to the Allee effect. However, when the whole area was colonized and the population was large, the negative effects of competition on population size were larger than the positive effects of the reduction in mortality due to the Allee effect. The use of infochemicals thus has mainly positive effects on population size and population persistence when the population is small and during the colonization of an area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1827-1849
Number of pages23
JournalBulletin of mathematical biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2008


  • chemotaxis
  • aggregation
  • integro-difference equations
  • spatial population dynamics
  • Allee effect

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