Say what? Sexually deprived male fruit flies get drunk to ease the pain of rejection
A Taiwanese high school student has hit upon a great idea to reduce fruit fly infestation. He was inspired by a scientific study which found that fruit flies act like some human males by seeking solace in alcohol when they are rejected by females.
For his research, Cheng Ching-Feng won the gold medal in environmental biology at this year's International Environment and Scientific Project Olympiad held in the Netherlands.
Cheng is a student at National Experimental High School in Hsinchu Science Park. He read an article in a science magazine about a study that showed fruit flies turning to alcohol when they were rejected by female fruit flies, and the reason had to do with alcohol being able to activate reward pathways in the flies' brains, making it a "pleasurable" experience. (A similar chemical is linked in humans.) Further research came up with an astounding discovery. Fruit flies that had been mated successfully actually had an aversion to alcohol-containing food, but the rejected males had a high preference for that food. According to the study, the rejected males drank four times more alcohol than the mated ones!
So what does a creative and smart high school student immersed in science do upon reading such a research article? Cheng came up with the idea to encourage fruit flies to eat fermented fruit, which has a slight amount of alcohol. Once these fruit flies get drunk, their sexual desires are lowered, and we get the desired result of less mating, and therefore, a smaller fruit fly population.
By the way, Chen's project has a big title, and we definitely want to know what it is: 'Relationship between sexual deprived Drosophila, NPF and the following behaviors.' Two other Taiwanese students won a silver award in environmental physics for their study that showed LED lights had the potential to become solar cells.
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(Photo shows Cheng Ching-Feng, Kuo Ti-hsuan and Wu Yi-hsuan)
Fruit fly infestation is a big problem for Taiwan where many fruits and vegetable crops are grown. Cheng's innovation will definitely help the farmers with an environmentally friendly method to control fruit fly infestation and damages.