In what they say was a lucky and unexpected finding, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Monell Chemical Senses Center say they've discovered that male fruit flies lay down an odorant (pheromone), that not only attracts females to lay eggs nearby, but also guides males and females searching for food. The discovery, they say, offers clues about how flies, and probably other creatures, navigate complex environments and use odors to guide important behavioral decisions. "We didn't know flies could rapidly deposit pheromones in response to odors, but now we have evidence that that's the case with at least three such food odors," says Christopher Potter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. A summary of the research findings appeared online on September 30, 2015 in an open-access article in the journal. The article is titled “Food Odors Trigger Drosophila Males to Deposit a Pheromone That Guides Aggregation and Female Oviposition Decisions.” Specifically, Dr. Potter says, experiments carried out by himself and his colleagues show that the pheromone known as 9-tricosene "flags a location as an ideal place for flies to mate, settle down, and have kids, so to speak. It's a way to help them associate mating with a food source that will give their offspring a good start in life." According to Potter, the pheromone's role was discovered serendipitously by graduate student Chun-Chieh Lin, who was testing a new experimental setup for use in other fly research. The setup involved placing flies in an enclosure shaped like a square that's been "pinched" on the sides, forming four pointed quadrants, with a glass top and bottom.
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