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Study unlocks secret of how fruit flies choose fruit with just the right amount of ethanol

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Posted December 11, 2013
Drosophila melanogaster
This image shows a 0.1 x 0.03 inch (2.5 x 0.8 mm) small Drosophila melanogaster fly. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Researchers from the University of California working with a team at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, have discovered how it is that fruit flies are able to lay their eggs in rotting fruit that has just the right amount of ethanol in it to promote healthy young. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they found clusters of neurons in the adult flies’ brains that responded differently to different levels of ethanol.

Fruit fllies are notorious for showing up just as fruit begins to rot. Prior research has found they are able to smell the ethanol from a great distance and that the flies both eat the rotting fruit and use it as a repository for their eggs. In this new effort, the researchers have found that the flies are also able to determine the level of ethanol in the fruit and to move on if it’s not just right for the best development of their offspring. Too little ethanol, the researchers report, results in too-heavy offspring that have difficulty flying. Too much ethanol causes a delay in development which reduces their chances of reproducing. The right amount is apparently 5%—about the same as beer.

Read more at: Phys.org

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