In the wild, aggression is a mechanism for accessing food and shelter, selecting mates, and protecting against predation. Aggressive behavior is shaped by genetics, hormones, experience, and environmental factors, and allows animals to react instinctively to environmental stimuli to enhance their prospects for survival and reproduction.

One of the freely available articles in this month’s issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols describes how to score and analyze aggression in Drosophila. Written by Edward Kravitz and Sarah Certel, the protocol explains step-by-step how to construct a fight arena, isolate and paint flies, introduce flies into an arena, and videotape and score fights. One can use this assay as a mutant screen to quantify the effects of genetic lesions in flies, and to unravel the molecular causes and modifiers of aggressive behavior.

Other assays for investigating courtship, sleep, learning and memory, and other behaviors in various organisms are also available from Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. Click here for a list.