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Courting both ways

Doped-up male fruit flies fancy other males

By
6:04pm, May 20, 2008

Boost the dopamine in a male fruit fly’s brain, and he’ll see guy flies in a whole new way.

Given a choice, these high-dopamine fellows still prefer a virgin female fly to a male, says Jean-François Ferveur of the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France. But given only a male, the fruit flies with the altered brain chemistry will court him. Male fruit flies from the wild do so only rarely, Ferveur and colleagues from China report in the May 21 Journal of Neuroscience.

Flies genetically engineered to crank up dopamine concentrations in their nervous systems or just given dopamine-enhancing drugs still make the usual romantic gestures, the researchers say. A courting male flirts with his wings, extending one hopefully or vibrating them in a serenade. He taps his intended, and if all is going well, licks her. Or him.

In all-male groups enhanced for dopamine, courting males focus attention on males that wer

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