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Insect form of sexual frustration takes toll

Whiff of female but no mating makes males die young

GREAT EXPECTATIONS  Fruit flies have their own versions of anticipating events, and failure to mate or eat as expected turns out to have physiological costs.

Smelling female fruit flies but not mating with them can actually shorten males’ lives.

Drosophila melanogaster males not allowed to mate despite receiving tantalizing   chemical sex messages lose about 35 to 40 percent of their normal life span, says molecular geneticist Scott Pletcher of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Males’ fat stores also dwindle, and the flies prove less able to cope with starvation, Pletcher and his colleagues report November 28 in Science.

Creating the reciprocal situation of celibate females sniffing but not getting males wasn’t as easy, he says. But so far, experiments show female life span declining 15 to 20 percent too.

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