Sex-starved fruit flies turn to drink

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Sensitive little beggars, fruit flies - they take it hard when they're unlucky in love, and hit the bottle.

Troy Zars, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, offered alcohol-spiked food to two groups of male Drosophila melanogaster: one which had mated repeatedly for several days and another denied access to females.

And while the group that had hit it lucky showed no interest in the alcohol, the others took to the booze with a vengeance. Zars believes the reason is something to do with an increased desire for physical reward.

We'll never know what tragic events in his own life may have prompted Zars's research. But, he says, the findings could help treat human addictions - although he stops sadly short of advocating orgies for alcoholics.

"Identifying the molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling the demand for reward in fruit flies could potentially influence our understanding of drug and alcohol abuse in humans, since previous studies have detailed similarities between signaling pathways in fruit flies and mammals," he says.

The study's available here, titled 'Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila'. It'll be interesting to see if Zars carries out similar experiments in females; he may find, by contrast, that it's generally a high ethanol intake that prevents sexual deprivation.