Scent Of Rotten Fruit Signals Sex, At Least For Fruit Flies | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Scent Of Rotten Fruit Signals Sex, At Least For Fruit Flies

If you're into sexual chemistry, set an aging banana peel or apple core out on your kitchen counter, pull up a chair, and wait — for the fruit flies.

If you are squeamish about the fruit you eat, you may want to stop reading here. Otherwise, here's the skinny about fruit flies: They like to mate ON fruit. Or whatever else that's on the fruit-fly version of the nutrition pyramid (or whatever geometric thingie the USDA is shoving its food groups into nowadays). Editor's Note: Chris, it's a plate. Try to keep up.

Scientists certainly knew about the fruit fly's mating rituals. But now they think they know why they're into fruit so much. It's the smell.

Female fruit flies produce pheromones — biochemicals that affect behavior in lots of insects and animals too — to attract males. But researchers have discovered that the brain circuits in male fruit flies that detect the female's come-hither chemical are activated FIRST by aromatic chemicals in fruit. (OK, if you have to know, it's phenylacetic acid and phenylacetaldehyde in the fruit.)

Why is this? Well, usually there's some good reason for complicated animal or insect behavior (unlike most human behavior, I'm afraid). In this case, researchers led by Richard Benton at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, say it's to the fruit flies advantage to mate where they eat. It offers an immediate and beneficial place to lay eggs. They're born in a horn of plenty.

People have been known to use food as an aphrodisiac, too. Food won over Albert Finney in the movie Tom Jones, and cast a spell on an entire family in Like Water For Chocolate.

If you want to read more about fly love and the importance of food, you can read all about it in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Key Civil War Generals The Subject Of New Smithsonian Exhibit

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery focuses on Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.
NPR

From McDonald's To Organic Valley, You're Probably Eating Wood Pulp

Many processed foods contain cellulose, which is plant fiber that is commonly extracted from wood. It's used to add texture, prevent caking and boost fiber. And it's been around for ages.
NPR

Could A Socialist Senator Become A National Brand?

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders opposes war and advocates for veterans. Even in the most conservative corner of Vermont, he's managed to do well. Now there's buzz that Sanders may run for president.
NPR

What Burritos And Sandwiches Can Teach Us About Innovation

Is a burrito a sandwich? The answer may sound simple to you ... but the question gets at the very heart of a tension that's existed for ages.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.