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Fighting Styles: Gene gives flies his, her conflict moves

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8:56am, November 21, 2006

A female fruit fly fights like a guy and a male fly fights like a girl after researchers switch forms of one gene, according to fly-fight specialists.

That gene, fruitless, is the same one that scientists had found to control roles in fruit fly courtship, says Edward A. Kravitz of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Switching between two forms of the gene can create same-sex flirtations in the insect. In the new work, that same genetic alteration swaps sex-determined styles of aggression, Kravitz and his colleagues report in the December Nature Neuroscience.

Only in the past decade have fruit flies emerged as a model animal for studying aggression. In the well-fed, plush life in laboratories, fruit flies rarely fight. So, Kravitz and his team had to invent ways to provoke conflicts.

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