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Secret Wing Colors Boost Sexiness in Flies

Update Date: Oct 22, 2014 04:49 PM EDT
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"Secret" wing colors could boost male attractiveness, according to a new study on fruit flies.

Swedish scientists from Lund University found that the males' hidden wing colors, bright tints that appear on a fruit fly's transparent wings as a result of light refraction, can seriously make or break their chances with female mates.

"Our experiment shows that this newly-discovered trait is important in female choice in fruit flies, and is the first evidence that wing interference patterns have a biological signaling function between the sexes during sexual selection," researcher Jessica Abbott, a biologist at Lund University, said in a news release.

The wings of fruits flies are transparent and seemingly colorless, but recent research reveals that they actually shimmer with different colors because of a refraction phenomenon called "thin-film interference".

"Because the wings are transparent, these colors are only visible against a dark background," said Abbott.

Researchers noted that these "secret" wing interference colors are determined by the thickness of the wing. The latest findings reveal that these colors, which are found in small insects like flies and wasps that have wings that are only nanometers thick, can significantly influence their sexual attractiveness.

"Our results will hopefully stimulate more research on wing interference patterns in other species, and increase interest in the role that the light environment plays in mate choice," researcher Professor Erik Svensson from Lund University said in a news release.

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