8 thoughts on “So this fly goes into a bar…”

  1. here’s a conversation based on the actual question posed by Dr. T.

    FF1: Are you signing up for the latest experiement the humans are doing?

    FF2: Heck YEAH…I hear it’s gonna be an open bar.

    FF1: Well….I don’t mean to be politically incorrect or anything….but…I heard they’re trying to see if we’ll turn gay if they get us drunk enough.

    FF2: Stupid humans. We’re FRUIT FLIES!

    FF1: You do have beautiful eyes.

    FF2: Shut up.

  2. Two fruitflies meet in a gay FF bar.

    FF1: Hey buddy, can I buy you a drink?

    FF2: That would be in your best interest.

    FF1: What?

    FF2: Let’s just say…..retro doesn’t mean you actually saved your clothes from the 80’s and are still wearing them.


    FF1: You havin’ fun yet?

    FF2: (sobbing) I wish I knew how to quit you!!!

  3. It’s not thinking that determines our attractions, Mary. Am I the only one who sees the strangeness of this observation: they had this bunch of regular male flies (they call it wild-type) which before alcohol exposure showed mostly opposite-sex courtship and almost no same-sex behaviour; after the first and second exposure they started to hit on males? What made them pursue female flies before alcohol intake if they were attracted to male flies in the first place (as showed after disinhibition)? Group pressure, religious belief?…

  4. so one male fly wakes up naked in the dorm room of another male fly and says, “Dude I was so drunk last night. I don’t remember anything. I must have been too drunk to go down the hall to my room”.

    and the second fly say, “Yeah, Dude, me too.” knowing that the first fly will be back next saturday with a bottle of tequila.

    (the gay folk will get that joke)

  5. Oh please – let’s not complicate things. It shows that when you are drunk your senses do not work the same. It also shows that humans are a higher order thinking creature and that fruitfly sexuality is different.

  6. This is about working on simpler theoretical models that can be found in some species, like Drosophila, and then going on to find the correspondent mechanisms in mammals. I said it before: humans are not the most biologically complex creatures on earth, let’s not suppose that human sexuality has the same ascendent that cognition has over the rest of the species. To quote the authors:

    These biphasic and adaptive responses of flies to ethanol are strikingly similar to those of rodents and humans. This implies that ethanol affects the fly and mammalian nervous systems in a similar manner.

    Therefore, I think it’s useful to lose this condescending attitude of human unattainable complexity even in biologically critical behaviours, like reproduction, that are supposed to be as simple as possible to be effective.

    The general picture:

    Typically, Drosophila males vigorously court females that have attractive pheromones with the courtship ritual comprising a sequential act of following, tapping the female’s abdomen, wing vibration (courtship song), licking the female’s genitalia, and attempted copulation, which eventually leads to copulation [16], [17]. Drosophila males, on the contrary, rarely exhibit active courtship toward other mature males [18], which we also observed in the absence of ethanol or on the first exposure to ethanol (Figure 2A, Movie S1). Occasionally, a male attempted to court another male but quickly moved away. Also, a male courtee strongly rejected a courting male (Movie S1). Under the influence of ethanol on the second and subsequent ethanol treatment, however, CS males actively courted other males in the ritual similar to that shown toward females, which represents disinhibited courtship.

    Some conclusions:

    1. They found out that male fruit flies after alcohol exposure lose some inhibitions and start chasing other male fruit flies, but researchers also stress that they believe that substance exposure does not change sexual orientation… So before exposure, male flies show mostly female-oriented courtship and after, they gradually become more alert and start a frenzy of same-sex courtship. This was demonstrated in wild-type male flies, i.e. from the non-mutated common phenotype in the natural population.

    2. A second finding is that, while it was known that ‘genetic alterations in somatic sex development are known to cause intermale courtship’, in contrast, they also found ‘recurring ethanol exposure as a post-developmental factor affecting male sexual behavior.’ That means that both brain development changes and post-developmental influences (substance exposure) can determine same-sex behaviour. This is why they went on to test their first findings from the wild-type males in males that are defective of a gene Fru M, a neural sex determination factor.

    In mutant male flies, that were defective of Fru and that expressed active male-to-male courtship without being exposed to alcohol, researchers found that, after exposure, their behaviour did not change, but same-sex courtship levels lowered. They concluded that ethanol exposure affected the normal function of the Fru-established neural system.

    3. They found some flies mutants that showed almost no intramale courtship even after being exposed to alcohol. These mutants have a gene white which plays an important role in the pigmentation of eyes and in the biosynthesis of dopamine or serotonine in the brain. These males with depigmented eyes had normal perception of light, while males that were deficient in w could have owed same-sex courtship to visual perception problems. They did the same experiment with alcohol exposure and wild-type males under infrared light and noticed that even after many exposures males failed to elicit any same-sex courtship.

    4. Alcohol exposure reduced the frequency of male-to-female courtship and sexual performance.

    Finally, in the discussion section, they included a remark on the possible correspondents in humans:

    Regarding the cellular mechanism underlying the ethanol-induced courtship disinhibition, the biochemical functions of the White ligands guanine and tryptophan suggest dopamine and serotonin as key components. This notion is supported by the observations that certain polymorphisms in hW, the human homologue of w encoding ABCG1, are linked in males to panic and mood disorders, which are associated with abnormal monoamine functions [42], [43].

    They’ve been tossing and turning this fru-theme for more than 10 years like a Rubik’s cube. Maybe the last October Harvard team research on rats should be followed up by testing all these fruit fly findings on rats. It doesn’t seem to do much else than establish a fashionable line of research. Does anyone know of any pest-controlling substances recently produced thanks to these studies on sexual genetic switches? Any mammal benefiting from it to improve reproductive behaviour?

  7. “I wonder if fruitflies talk about humans the way we talk about them.”

    I would venture to say that this about sums up the comparability of fly and human sexuality.

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