Fruit flies may be tiny, but they can sniff out the best mates
January 18, 2017
Picture yourself six months ago (if it wasn’t summer for you six months ago, just pretend and go with). It’s sweltering outside, so off you go to the kitchen with all the good intentions of grabbing yourself a nice, cool beer to relax with when you are confronted with a swarming mass over your fruit bowl. The dreaded fruit fly. Completely harmless of course, but for many a complete horror to look at.
Well, some scientists from the University of Washington observed these miniscule menaces mate 2,700 times. It seems excessive, but don’t judge so quick, this is all in the name of science of course.
They found that the tiny buggers are remarkably logical when it comes to choosing who they copulate with; almost every single one of those 2,700 times the males chose females who would produce the most tiny little buggers.
“The cognitive process of making rational choices is something we often think of as uniquely human,” said Devin Arbuthnott, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia and member of the research team. “While it is largely unknown whether animals are capable of making rational choices, this study provides the first evidence that fruit flies can, and do.”
To tease this out of the male fruit fly they tempted the fella with the choice of two lady fruit flies – kind of like one of those cruel, degrading TV shows where the guy chooses which girl to take to Ibiza, but without the sense of shame. They found that between 70-100 percent of the time, the male choose “option A” over the second-best “option B” and when the choice was between B and third-best C, they still followed the same hierarchy.
The female isn’t just waiting around to let herself be nabbed either. The scientists found that blocking the male’s sight or sound didn’t have an effect, but when both were blocked the flies mated far less, suggesting that the female sends out signals of some kind.
Arbuthnott is lining up further research into the variation in females and what makes them attractive. So, unfortunately you’ll have to wait a little while for the next update on the dating habits of those pesky buggers who disrupt your summer time beer runs.