Sex Circuit of a Male Fruit Fly

Image: Vanessa Ruta

Hello, Drosophila ladies! The good news is that scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered the secret of what makes male fruit flies go crazy for you.

The bad news is that it's a gene that trigger their sex circuit, a four-neuron circuit in the male fruit fly brain, that release the male courtship behavior. In fact, once the circuit is triggered, a male fruit fly will mate with just about anything, including a decapitated female:

Fruit fly courtship is so highly stylized and repetitive, it is as instantly recognizable as the knee jerk or Achilles reflex.

A male lines himself up behind a female and then chases her, licking her and tapping her with his forelegs while vibrating his wings to sing to her. If she responds to these blandishments, the male attempts to mount her. (To hear the song, click here.)

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have found a gene that seems to unleash the courtship ritual. Males missing this gene are capable of courtship; they just have trouble getting started.

This lackadaisical behavior is remarkable because males are usually “highly sexed,” to the point that they will court and mount “perfumed dummies,” decapitated females coated in waxy pheromones.

Link - Thanks Diana!

Previously on Neatorama: 30 Strangest Animal Mating Habits

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