Sunday, 1 August 2004

Let's see: tapping the female, check; extending and vibrating a wing, check; singing - ah, that's where we go wrong.

Fruit flies and humans are similar in their genetic makeup so Baker and his colleagues question whether genes that control sexuality in fruit flies could have a similar role in humans.
"If you look at the basics of fly behavior, you find an innate ability to recognize somebody who is the right species and is the right sex," said Baker.
"You tap them and get their attention, you play them a love song and so on. So the basic rudiments are pretty similar to what people do to get successful mating and produce an offspring."
Scientists, in the course of messing around with fruit fly genes, believe they have isolated the cells that control male mating behaviour. Apparently when they interfered with those nerve cells, male fruit flies neglected the fine courtesies, which involve, among other things, tapping, some snappy wing action, and singing (flies sing? we thought they just hummed.), and of course the flowers and the compliments, and tried to do everything at once. Net result: Male fruit fly's fly stays zipped.

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