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Science

Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring With Alcohol 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-friend-of-mine-does-that-too dept.
Copper Nikus writes "In yet another fascinating example of insects being smarter than we give them credit for, this article describes how fruit flies are able to fight back against deadly wasps by using alcohol. Quoting: 'These wasps lay eggs on the larva or pupa of the flies, and their offspring feed on the animal internally, often killing them in the process. (Flies have larval stages, during which we call them maggots, and pupate just as butterflies do before emerging in their adult form.) Once infected, there isn't much one of the larva can do to get rid of the parasite. Its one option: booze (abstract). Fruit flies, as their name implies, like to dine on fruit, especially during the larval stages. In many cases, that involves ingesting the alcohol that's produced by natural fermentation of rotting fruit (this can approach 20 percent alcohol content). Some species of flies have developed the ability to tolerate this alcohol as they chew through the fruit as maggots. But for most of the wasp species, even moderate levels of alcohol are toxic."
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Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring With Alcohol

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  • Just like humans.
    • Re:Sounds familiar (Score:4, Informative)

      by Cpt_Kirks (37296) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:31PM (#42984653)

      Only when they go to Applebees.

  • by ozduo (2043408)
    "alcohol can be toxic" I'd better reduce my intake to 50 beers a day.
    • "alcohol can be toxic" I'd better reduce my intake to 50 beers a day.

      I'ts worse than that. Alcohol is a level 1 carcinogen, so it's in the same list as asbestos, plutonium and gamma rays.

      • by Sentrion (964745)

        Yes, but if he cuts back on the alcohol he could be suspectible to wasp larvae! Consider the risks carefully before you make your decision.

        As for all those carcinogens, they are only dangerous when you consume them in California. Much safer to consume them here in Texas. And nothing keeps the bugs away better than asbestos, plutonium and gamma rays.

    • I'm concerned about your high Di-hydrogen Monoxide intake.

  • by cognoscentus (1628459) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:50PM (#42984899)
    Fruit flies like a Bacardi.
  • by at10u8 (179705) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:53PM (#42984945)
    JMS had this figured out years ago with his keeper [wikia.com].
  • The article doesn't say anything about the hangover this causes the next day.
  • Isn't the alcohol generated by yeast to keep bacteria at bay to begin with?
    • by LiENUS (207736)

      I thought alcohol was generated by yeast as a method of anaerobic respiration?

  • Insects can't stand alcohol, I'll drink more when I'm out... just keeping up my insect defenses..
  • This is what I get for reading Slashdot during lunch. *looks down at couscous and pushes it away*
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday February 22, 2013 @05:29PM (#42985357)

    But, when I do I choose Dos Equis.

  • The crux of the hypothesis is that when there are no wasps around the fruit flies disperse evenly between fresh and fermented fruit but when wasps are around they congregate around the fermented fruit. The article hypothesizes that the reason is that the flies choose the fruit is that they know that wasps do not like alcohol. There is another possibility. That the flies do not like being around the wasps and the wasps do not like being around the alcohol. When a wasp approaches a fly it moves away. Since th

  • I have about 20 apple trees in my property, and I have seen deer and squirrels in purpose eating the fermenting fruit just to get drunk. They put a very good show once they're drunk. Specially the squirrels, I can swear squirrels have a sense of humour.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Now you told us all this, and we can't see it.. :/

      Please make some videos, OK? I wanna see that. :)

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday February 22, 2013 @06:46PM (#42986101)
    The larvae's parents have nothing to do with the larval use of alcohol. And the larval use of alcohol is accidental. The fruit fly larvae happen to have a tolerance for the alcohol and the wasp larva don't. They weren't seeking out alcohol. Summary is drivel, and if the quote came from TFA, it's drivel too.
    • The larvae's parents have nothing to do with the larval use of alcohol.

      Not true. It's the larvae don't have the choice here. They eat what's in front of them. The parent is the one that decides where to lay the eggs. If the parent detects wasps, she lays her eggs on the alcohol-laden fruit. If not, she doesn't.

    • by Dahan (130247)

      and if the quote came from TFA, it's drivel too.

      -1, Wrong because he didn't RTFA

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