Fly Pheromones Can Say Yes and No: Attracting Chemicals May Also Repel, Limit Interspecies Mating
Saey, Tina Hesman, Science News
The sweet smell of honey attracts more flies than vinegar's sour odor, but the ultimate fruit fly magnet is eau de nothing.
Ditching pheromones makes both male and female fruit flies supersexy to males, even of other species, neurogeneticist Joel Levine of the University of Toronto Mississauga and his colleagues report in the October 15 Nature. The discovery suggests pheromones can be "back off" as well as "come-hither" signals, helping animals find the right gender and species to mate with.
It was a mystery how fruit fly species could tell each other apart. Many species look similar, at least to humans. "We geneticists can hardly tell them apart unless we dissect them," says Nicolas Gompel of the Developmental Biology Institute of Marseilles-Luminyin France. Scientists have known that pheromones are important in finding mates, but no one knew how those signals work in combination. Levine and colleagues selectively killed pheromone-producing cells called oenocytes on flies' abdomens, creating scentless flies.
Surprisingly, the lack of a come-hither signal was more of an aphrodisiac for male flies than pheromones were. Normal males were more attracted to both male and female flies lacking pheromones than to normal females. …