If there’s one thing we love, it’s sex. And it appears the humble fruit fly feels the same way. Particularly, the feeling of climax, it turns out. While the majority of animals, from mammals to insects, are attracted to mating as a way to procreate, fruit flies also do so for pleasure.
As fruit flies have only a short lifespan – between 40 and 50 days – the insect’s survival is reliant on a good deal of its six or so weeks on earth being spent getting their freak on (not a bad rap if you ask us). Researchers from Bar-ilan University in Israel have found fruit flies not only root like rabbits but the males particularly enjoy ejaculation.
“We wanted to know which part of the mating process entails the rewarding value for flies,” said molecular biologist and senior researcher Galit Shohat-Ophir.
The results of the study were published in the latest edition of Current Biology, with scientists discovering that pleasure of mating isn’t due to the process of courtship or female pheromones, but is derived from the rush the flies feel when ejaculating, similar to the fly’s human counterpart.
Scientists wanted to concentrate on the fly’s release of semen, so they did away with the mating process and created genetically engineered flies that would ejaculate under red lights. They focused on a neuropeptide called corazonin (CRZ) that’s responsible for the release of sperm from fruit flies, engineering it so when the flies were put under red lights ejaculation was triggered.
The flies were placed in a box that was half illuminated by red light (which we sincerely hope they named the “red light district”) and left to their own devices. As you can imagine, the altered flies spent most of the time in the red zone getting off while normal flies stayed in the light.
To confirm the results the team of researchers repeated the experiment but this time added smell to the experience. They trained the flies to associate a certain smell with the red light and left them fly around a contained area that included a number of different smells. As with above, the flies chose to hang out in the area that reminded them of getting off.
The study also delved into how the flies reacted when they didn’t get the chance to ejaculate. The results gathered found flies that got their nut off in the red-light zone had increased levels of the courtship-related neuropeptide F. When offered a choice between a normal sugary food and one laced with ethanol, the sexually satisfied flies choose the sugary food while the other flies who didn’t ejaculate, and therefore had lower levels of neuropeptide F, went straight for the booze-soaked morsels.
This suggests that similar to humans who turn to the booze after an unlucky night out on the town, flies are also partial to drowning their sorrows. If you know of any fruit flies going through a dry spell, see if you can't bring them along to the pub – you could make a lifelong drinking buddy (or a drinking buddy for around six weeks, at any rate.)
Shohat-Ophir is hoping these results will help with the study of substance addiction and shed light on male animal’s sexual motivations.