The hunt for a soulmate
Locating potential soulmates is a big deal, especially if you subscribe to the idea of “till death do us part”.
Traditionally many people found their soul mate with the help of a meddling “Aunty” or the hiring of the services of a “professional” matchmaker. The matchmaker aligned the family demographics and horoscopes to find a suitable partner.
Today, computers run complex alogarthims to select the perfect match from cyber profiles submitted to on-line dating services.
But many of these “matches” don’t work out !
Because the ultimate match is determined by the bacteria living in the gut. Well, this seems to be the case for fruit flies.
Love, marriage and fruit flies
Researchers at Tel Aviv University discovered that the symbiotic bacteria living in the gut of laboratory fruit flies played a very big role in fruit fly choice of mates.
The researches worked with two groups of flies. The group of flies in the study were either fed on malt sugar or starch.
The flies were then brought together and allowed to mate.
But despite the opportunity to “get it on” with any fly in the jar, they preferred to mate with flies that had followed the same dietary pattern, so there really wasn’t too much mixing. The malt sugar guys hooked up with other malt sugar flies and the starch guys hooked up with starch eating flies.
Makes sense – if you’re a vegetarian, you would think twice about hooking up with a carnivore because the kitchen could become a zone of conflict. It’s going to be much easier, if everyone is on the same page when feeding time comes around. Fruit flies aren’t stupid.
Yes, but the brains of the operation weren’t the flies
The researchers dosed the flies with an antibiotic and suddenly the mating process was completely random.
So the flies weren’t in the driver seat – the bacteria inside the flies were. Since antibiotics damage bacteria not fly brain cells.
A little further digging revealed that the flies following different diets had different gut bacteria. Lactobacillus plantarum was the main resident of the starch fed flies.
The researchers then gave the flies a “probiotic”, by injecting them with the different species of bacteria. When the bacteria loaded antibiotic treated flies were tossed together in the jar – the whole mating preference thing happened once more.
But how ?
The researchers found that the bacteria were spicing up the sexual pheromones produced by the flies.
Each set of bacteria produced its own unique “scent” and since everyone knows “like attracts like” – the like smelling flies linked up with flies that smelled just like them.
Gives a whole new meaning to the term “gut feel”
Since there is evidence that pheromones play a role in human attraction. Could your gut feel for someone be your bacteria talking ?Commensal bacteria play a role in mating preference of Drosophila melanogaster. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2010) 107(46): 20051-20056; G. Sharon, D. Segal, J. M. Ringo, A. Hefetz, I. Zilber-Rosenberg, E. Rosenberg.
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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below…..