It sounds like the premise of a "Far Side" comic: A fruit fly with an insatiable sexual appetite is no good with women and looks for respite at the bottom of a bottle.
But revelations about those puny nuisances that have been annoying your oranges all week didn’t come from Gary Larson, but from a group of researchers at the Heberlein lab at the University of California, San Francisco.
Galit Shohat-Ophir, the team’s lead researcher, and her colleagues discovered that the more a male fruit fly’s sexual advances are rejected, the more likely the fly will turn to alcohol as a consolation.
The findings, which they published in the journal Science, were the culmination of years of research on the “reward” pathway in the brain, which is linked to addiction.
“A reward is a kind of stimulus that reinforces behavior, in that it increases the chance that the behavior will occur again,” Shohat-Ophir told CNN Light Years. “Usually, it’s pleasure-related effects.”
Flies that weren’t deprived of doing the deed had higher levels of a neurotransmitter called NPF, she said, and they consumed less alcohol-spiked food as a result.
The brain’s reward systems are key to reinforcing behavior necessary for survival, including sex. Mating increases NPF levels, but when the flies hit a dry spell, the sex-deprived - and thus NPF-deficient - reward-seekers will turn to alcohol to stimulate a similar cognitive response.
But while Shohat-Ophir and her team weren’t exactly able to persuade their female subjects to put out, they did successfully manipulate the males’ consumption of ethanol-sodden food by directly regulating NPF levels.
“We were interested in trying to get into the molecular mechanisms of what makes social interaction rewarding for animals,” Shohat-Ophir said. “And substance abuse is thought to use the same neuromechanisms as natural rewards.”
In fact, the old soaks weren’t even all that particular about the quality of the food they were eating. Apparently, even the animal kingdom has its junkies.
“Flies exhibit complex addiction-like behaviors, including ... a preference for consuming ethanol-containing food, even if made unpalatable,” the researchers wrote in Science.
Pinpointing the exact reason for the flies’ alcoholic inclinations meant the subjects had to be split up into various control groups. The researchers looked at the effect that group housing had on the flies, for example, or whether there was a preference for virgins over females that had mated before.
But the award for the most unsavory experiment went to the decapitation of female subjects to ensure that males were deprived sexually but not exposed to the social experience of rejection. (Males will court a headless female, but their attempts rarely end in sex.)
These males also demonstrated an “enhanced ethanol preference,” confirming that it is a lack of sex in general, not the stigma of striking out with potential mating partners, that sends them tippling.
And once their confidence has been shattered, it takes a lot to get it back.
“This rejection behavior leads to a memory formation within the brain,” Shohat-Ophir said. “Males that have been rejected have a lower courtship behavior the next time they encounter females.”
But to be fair, the laboratory settings weren’t exactly conducive to lovemaking. Typically, two flies are put into a stuffy, brightly lit space with cameras recording their every move. The male will then attempt to court the female by serenading her with a love song played on his wing, tapping her abdomen and even gently caressing her genitalia with his proboscis, an organ that has smell and taste functions.
Even then, there’s no guarantee a female will consent. That kind of pressure would make any man want to pour himself a drink.
From what I understand from this article, we can take it that $e X cures addiction, particularly alcoholism in males. Thus rehab, housing, and counceling will not be necessary, just willing headless women! Finally a commodity worth exporting from the Middle East! LMAO
I have two comment/questions concerning this story:
1) Has the SPCA become involved regarding the deprivation? If not, why not?
2) If alcohol dependencies have been created, is a twelve-step program being initiated? If not, why nol?
Overheard in a singles insect bar: "Don't give me that old 'I just pupated and have just 24 hours to live' line !
Do the ugly flies look better around closing time ?
Now we know where the term 'bar flies' comes from. I bet the same will hold true for lounge lizards.
This is new News?
Now we will have to try an experiment to see if unmated bar flies prefer green beer on St. Patty's, and if so, does it give them the luck of the Irish with the ladies?
Help me! Help meeeee!
they should give the flies alcohol before they try to mate it will help loosen them up
Hmmm, I have to admit that I was 'involved' with the Lord of the Flies for awhile.
Now you've done it! Can't I like good single malt without it being blamed on my living the celibate life?
Candy is dandy but... Actually if the guys see you drinking, they are more likely to approach, it implies you might be easier to score with.
I wonder if that applies to butterflies? I've watched Skipper males, those little tiny butterflies that look like minature jet planes when they are resting, try to mate with a dead leaf on the ground. The females are beige colored like dead leaves. If it's anything like flies, I guess this male hadn't experienced much rejection before so he was still ready to go!
There are also butterflies that don't visit flowers, they prefer fallen fruit, and if it's rotten they get drunk and won't/can't fly away very well if you approach them. I guess just about any animal can get a taste for alcohol.
Now we know why we call people that inhabit bars on a daily basis bar flies.
this is too funny to read, make sure the male fly has a condom you would not want him to get a std do you?
Ill drink to that!!!
That fly sounds just like me!!
how much did this study cost us ?
none, you idiot.
Somebody had to pay for it, you idiot.
why use freakin flies..why not use animals genetically similar to humans like apes, monkeys etc. are we now suppose to believe that the flies behaviour might mirror in the slightest context human behavior based on this experiment? how does be-heading female flies help with anything..Jeez..so much for PhD..figured it would be a waste of my time despite being told so many times to go for it.
Lots of bugs will mate with something beheaded, that's not the business end. In fact some bugs can still mate without their heads attached, the male mantis is a good example. If the female gets hungry and there is no prey within easy reach, sometimes she decides to start eating him while he is mating her. She starts with the head since that's easiest to reach. He goes right on mating without it!
Sounds a lot like Rush Limbaugh!
@ 111:11, I'm glad my frothing rage comes across in text format... and I am intoxicated.
That's 2 for 2. Well played.
Wait. That's one 1 too many. Damn you 11:11.
They should give 'em some ecstasy.
Now do a study where the female fly flirts with the male fly to get free drinks and then tells him she just got an urgent call from her mother and has to leave.
I really miss The Far Side.
Truer words have not been spoken.
I have the ENTIRE Far Side Collection...keep some on my desk at work for clients to browse through!
I have the entire Far Side Collection....I keep some on my desk at work for clients to browse through
Mrs. Carle – Christina & Bobby your boys are beautiful, I've eneoyjd watching the grow in Meridith's photos. They've brought a smile to my face everytime. Enjoy every day with them!
so... flies locked up with beheaded females and forced to make out tended to drink? BRILLIANT!
Your tax dollars hard at work.
Is this research really using tax dollars, or are you just speculating?
You're not too bright Jac.......
There must not be much news to write about this week.
zzzo zzzzat exzzzzplainzzz it
Excellent, in depth story!
coming up..... Did you know? Dirt is dirty? Rain is wet?
Actually most dirt isn't dirty unless Monsanto got it's hands on it.
That is a huge compliment! They are one of my ftiorvae magazines. Hope it brings a great new crop of simple-living, creative and hip gardeners your way.
Science is so bizarre.
So that explains why I drink so much. And I thought it was to forget.
Fly me to the moon...
I knew we could somehow blame alcoholism on women.
Sounds like a new bar pickup line in the making. Hey Baby!......
This explains everything.
I can always count on this generation of republican know-nothings to politicize an article on scientific research. They are so against science/arts and academia i'm surprised they still drive cars. If you have such an aversion to science, stop reaping the benefits and go live in the woods.
You are an moron.
Stick to the Holodeck, Worf. The adults are talking.
Btw, I am not 'an' moron
but since the criticism comes from an esteemed star fleet Lieutenant perhaps i should reevaluate myself.
Maybe i an... maybe i an.
Such an excellent retort, so insightful and meaning. 😉 You do realize that you are helping make the poster point. LOL. Of course those anti-science/anti-intellectual/anti-education folks who want to make hay over just about any subject are the ones to which we should listen. It only makes sense ... NOT
It may be time to look in the mirror, you've become exactly what you hate.
Ummmm I'm a republican and also hold a degree in geology. Scientist does not always = liberal, believe it or not. Also, this article had nothing whatsoever to do with politics so you should probably go find a different forum to ramble in.
A whole new meaning to 'bar flies.'
Galit Shohat-Ophir is obviously the proud recipient of Obama Stimulus research money. Any dope in entomolgy knows that Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) are attracted to alcohols because they are a byproduct of fermentation. The sweet smell of alcohol attracts the flies because they know that where there is alcohol there is sugar, and they need sugar to cultivate their larvae.
Leave an open beer bottle with just a thin film of beer in the bottom of the bottle. If you have bananas in the house, there is strong likelihood that with a week or so you will have a colony of fruit flies developing at the bottom of the bottle. They are quite particular to Pale Ales in fact.
One might expect such a study out of San Francisco. I might have preferred a duel between a female Black Widow and a Female Praying Mantis after both have mated...who would eat whom?
If you had taken the time to actually read the article, you would realize that the experiment used controls to ensure that the behavior they were studying exhibited a causal relationship. The only thing you've demonstrated is the ability to copy and paste articles from Wikipedia. Well done.
ohhhh you got embarrased by calmdown. But it's true, you didn't read the article.
Geez, what an opportunistic swipe. I guess some people never put politics aside, even for a second.
they should get those flys some lsd
I found you in the magazine aictrle, too. I grew up on a farm with yearly gardens, and I have grown gardens in a lot of smaller plots as an adult. This year I want to dial it down to container gardening and see if less is more. Congratulations on your eight years! You must be doing something right and serving the needs of lots of folks way to go and to grow!
I take it, this leads to a comparison to humans. Therefore, women are really the main cause of alcoholism in men. Finally, scientific proof.
and vice versa
Hahahahahaha. I feel the flies pain. Women can burst that ego real bad and lead you doing a lot of things. At least we are not a lone. Drink up Fly buddy!
Your tax dollars at work...
You might not complain if this lead to an effective treatment for addiction and lowered overall societal costs. It might actually end up saving taxpayers money. Funny how that research stuff works.
I doubt it, we will then need to provide treatment programs, drugs, housing, and who knows what else in the name of science and drunk bugs.
You realize only a portion of research grants are supplied by the government, right? Of course not, because Obama is the devil and liberals are destroying America, and we're spening all of our hard earned money getting flies drunk.
Hey calm down....You an an idiot!!You are the devil!!!
I will run this by my tech guy' because that is not my area of extrepise. At all! I did submit the podcast to iTunes and, as soon as they get it up and running, you will be able to listen to it straight from there, easy as pie.
And what about all that money wasted on the voyage of the Beagle. Please tell me that your name was meant to be sarcastic or that it was a cosmic coincidence.
i'm sure you'd prefer our tax dollars to be used to go start wars.
Assuming you pay taxes... Perhaps the money would be better spent on drug wars and abstinence programs. Is that a better use of your hard earned money? You seem to be funding this research yourself. Sorry if you're not seeing a positive return on your investment.
Wow Darwin, you make a comment that goes against the grain and the Obombots descend on you like fruit flies that have been rejected. LMAO! I can tell from their frothing rage they have become quite intoxicated too.
do they have craiglist in the fly world
You mean a bar flies seeking bar flies category?