How the fruit fly got its stink

Drosophila melanogaster (photo credit: André Karwath via Flickr)

Male fruit flies dampen the libido of sexual rivals with smelly pheromone.

The struggle to reproduce and leave behind a genetic legacy has seen the evolution of a variety of weird and wonderful mating features. While male birds such as the peacock don fancy feathers and conduct elaborate courtship dances to outcompete rivals, male fruit flies employ a far less savoury tactic.

For the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the tiny workhorse of the genetics lab, mating isn’t a guarantee of reproductive success. A male who has successfully mated with a female could still be outdone if a rival comes along and mates with his partner after he has wandered off in post-coital bliss. Sperm from both males will compete for the ultimate prize of fertilising the female’s egg.
One way that male fruit flies try to keep their sexual conquests to themselves is by offering their lover a smelly pheromone perfume as a parting gift to repel further would-be suitors.

How this intriguing system evolved is the subject of study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. Continue reading “How the fruit fly got its stink”