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Fruit Fly Babies Get the Go to Drink Alcohol

Update Date: Feb 22, 2013 02:48 PM EST
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Fruit flies appear to use alcohol as a way to protect their eggs, directly forcing their young to consume alcohol in presence of parasitic wasps. According to a research study done in Emory University and published in Science, fruit flies immerse their eggs into an alcohol-soaked section of a fermenting fruit when they are in the presence of a threat. Due to this phenomenon, the common fruit flies' larvae has developed some resistance against the alcohol and its toxic effects, which when found in nature can contain up to 15 percent. Apparently for these fruit flies, a little bit of strong liquor can go a long way for these babies. 

The study, titled "Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring After Seeing Parasites," reported that "hosts have numerous defenses against parasites, of which behavioral immune responses are an important but underappreciated component...when flies see wasps, they switch to laying eggs in alcohol-laden food sources that protect hatched larvae from infection." The researchers of this study wanted to see if female fruit flies would submerge their eggs in alcohol if there were no wasps present and they found that in the controlled cages with wasp, roughly 90 percent of the eggs ended up in alcohol as opposed to the 40 percent of eggs found in alcohol under the safe environment without wasps. The fruit flies sure have taken a dramatic but effective method of protecting their offspring from one of their largest predators.

The parasitic wasps attack by laying their eggs and venom designed to weaken the immune system inside of the larvae of fruit flies. The fruit flies resort to using alcohol to help kill or hurt the present wasp eggs or wasps. According to the research, fruit flies that host a living wasp tend to consume more alcohol and especially foods with a higher concentration of alcohol because the wasps are not as tolerant of the toxic substance as the flies are. If they cannot successfully kill the parasite, they might as well make them suffer by forcing them to drink alcohol. 

This study also found that fruit flies determine where to lay their eggs through the use of their eyes. If they do not see any visible threats, they may not lay their eggs in alcohol. However, if they can see male or female wasps, the majority of the species will force their children to drink alcohol for their own good. 

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