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Young flies cannibalize the plump

Smaller larvae feast on larger ones

OTTAWA — Larval fruit flies, supposedly relentless devourers of rotting fruit, at times leave their regular laboratory food to stalk, kill and group-cannibalize some of their older, fatter fellows, scientists report.

This predatory cannibalism shows up in Drosophila melanogaster, the fly species that generations of biologists have grown in untold numbers, Roshan Vijendravarma of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland reported July 6 at the Evolution Ottawa scientific congress. He and Lausanne colleagues documented the behavior in both Canton S fruit flies, a strain raised in labs for more than six decades, and the Valais strain, brought into culture only in the last two years.

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