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Study Finds Male Fruit Flies Tend to Sleep Around with ‘Strangers’

Update Date: Sep 25, 2013 03:41 PM EDT

In a new study conducted by researchers from Oxford University, the team examined the sexual preferences between male and female fruit flies. They found that male fruit flies tend to find a variety of sexual partners that are not tied to family to mate with. Female fruit flies, on the other hand, tend to have a predilection to mate with 'brother in laws' and stay within a family.

"The aim of the research was to test whether fruit fly males and females prefer to mate with the same partners repeatedly, or whether they prefer to mate with different individuals each time. In addition, we aimed to test whether males and females show mating preferences for the siblings of their previous mates," explained the study's first author, Dr. Cedric. Tan, from the University's Department of Zoology.

For this study, the researchers used the fruit fly species named Drosophila melanogaster. In the first experiment, both male and female fruit flies were exposed to two potential mates with one being new while the other being their previous mate. In the second experiment, the previous mate was switched out for another fruit fly from the same family. Both of these experiments were then repeated for fruit flies that were genetically altered without the sense of smell.

"First, we found that males prefer to court novel females. This is a widespread phenomenon in many species, particularly mammals, but this is the first evidence of this phenomenon in fruit flies. More importantly, though, we discovered that females don't share this preference - if anything they go for a familiar partner," Tan said. "Furthermore, these preferences extend to the "in-laws" - males avoid their "sisters-in-law" whereas females prefer their "brothers-in-law" compared with a random potential partner."

The researchers also found that a sense of smell played a huge factor during the mating process. Fruit flies that did not have a sense of smell did not exhibit any of the preferences seen in the healthy fruit flies. Although the researchers could not explain why males and females had different sexual preferences, they believe that studying this phenomenon in other animals could be very interesting.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B

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