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Singing Fruit Flies

February 4, 2016

Scientists listen in on fruit fly courtship calls to study the neural underpinnings of communication.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sophisticated singing from fruit flies. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[fruit fly singing] This is the song of an amorous male fruit fly, chasing a very particular female. In the journal Neuron, Princeton researchers report that males conserve energy by whispering their call when the female is near, and singing louder only when she’s further away. While that sounds unsurprising, neuroscientist Philip Coen, now at University College London, says being able to optimize communication volume that way is an ability seen so far in only people and songbirds.

PHILIP COEN (University College London, formerly at Princeton):

And the genetic tools we have available in the fruit fly make it a great model organism to start dissecting these fundamental neural circuits.

HIRSHON:

So while this fruit fly is performing solely for love, studying it could help scientists understand communications processing in organisms with much larger brains—including humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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