ABSTRACT Social behaviour emerges from the local environment but is constrained by the animal's life history and its evolutionary lineage. In this perspective, we consider the genus Drosophila and provide an overview of how these constraints can shape how individuals interact. Our focus is restricted to visual and chemical signals and how their use varies across species during courtship – currently the only social behaviour well-studied across many Drosophila species. We broadly categorize species into four climatic groups – cosmopolitan, tropical, temperate and arid – which serve as discussion points as we review comparative behavioural and physiological studies and relate them to the abiotic conditions of a species environment. We discuss how the physiological and behavioural differences among many fly species may reflect life history differences as much as, or even more than, differences in phylogeny. This perspective serves not only to summarize what has been studied across drosophilids, but also to identify questions and outline gaps in the literature worth pursuing for progressing the understanding of behavioural evolution in Drosophila .