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Animal Senses Roundup

December 21, 2012

Even flies can get sick from eating spoiled food.



Making a fly gag. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

You’d think it would be impossible to gross out a fly. But scientists report in the journal Cell the discovery of a dedicated disgust circuit in fruit flies. It’s triggered by a compound geosmin produced by molds and bacteria that can make flies sick. Spraying it near even the most otherwise appetizing fruit drives the flies away. Scientists study fruitflies not only to learn about insects, but as a model for humans, because versions of many of the same genetic pathways and mechanisms are found in us.

In other animal sensory news, scientists visiting fish markets in theCzech Republichave discovered evidence that fish can detect the earth’s magnetic field. Live carp kept in tubs of water there all lined themselves up preferentially in the north/south direction, no matter how the tubs were oriented.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.