Gene Keeps Fruit Flies Straight

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Fruit flies may live up to their name. A team of scientists out of the University of Chicago have discovered a gene that keeps the insects flying straight:

A team of scientists led by Manyuan Long at the University of Chicago call it the sphinx gene, and it is present only in fruit flies. Long’s grad student Wen Wang identified the gene back in 2002, and now two other former students, Hongzheng Dai and Ying Chen, have discovered its purpose. When Dai and Chen turned off the gene, the males looked and acted ordinary, at least until they were placed in each other’s company.

When that happened, the genetically engineered flies spent 10 times more time pursuing other males than normal fruit flies. Long says that the gene evolved about two million years ago to prevent male flies from inhibiting mating by spending too much time with each other.

Ultimately, though, the genetically engineered flies grew frustrated with their failed attempts to get it on, and returned to the females. The sphinx gene is dormant in female fruit flies; as such, they’re only affected by lack of male attention.

We wonder if there are fruit fly hags…