Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

By tracking maggots' food choices, scientists open significant new window into human learning

Date:
July 31, 2013
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
The larva of the fruit fly is helping scientists understand the way humans learn information from each other. Fruit flies have long served as models for studying behavior, but new findings show their larvae may be even more valuable. Researchers were able to demonstrate that the larvae, or maggots, are capable of social learning, which opens the door to many other experiments that could provide valuable insights into human behavior.

Fruit-fly larvae
Credit: Whyishnave Suthagar, McMaster University

The squirming larva of the humble fruit fly, which shares a surprising amount of genetic material with the human being, is helping scientists to understand the way we learn information from one another.

Fruit flies have long served as models for studying behaviour because their cognitive mechanisms are parallel to humans', but much simpler to study.

Fruit flies exhibit many of the same basic behaviours as humans and share 87 per cent of the material that is responsible for genetically based neurological disorders, making them a potent model for study.

While adult fruit flies have been studied for decades, the new paper reveals that their larvae, which are even simpler organisms, may be more valuable models for behavioral research. A fruit fly larva has only 3,000 neurons, for example, while a human has about 10 billion.

The McMaster researchers were able to demonstrate that the larvae, or maggots, are capable of social learning, which opens the door to many other experiments that could provide valuable insights into human behaviour, end even lead to treatments for human disorders, the scientists say.

"People have been studying adult flies for decades now," explains the study's lead author, Zachary Durisko. "The larval stage is much simpler in terms of the brain, but behaviour at the larval stage has been less well studied. Here we have a complex behaviour in this even simpler model."

Durisko and Reuven Dukas, both of McMaster's Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, have shown that fruit fly larvae are able to distinguish which food sources have been used by other larvae and utilize the information to benefit themselves by choosing to eat from those same established sources instead of available alternatives.

The maggots' attraction to food that others have been eating is based on smell, and is roughly equivalent to a person arriving in a new city, seeing two restaurants and choosing a busy one over an empty one, the researchers explain.

"They prefer the social over the non-social like we would do, and they learn to prefer the social over the non-social," Dukas says.

In fact, the motivations may be similar in each case, and could include accepting the judgment of others as an indication of quality and seeking the company of others for protection from harm.

Durisko, the lead author, recently completed his PhD at McMaster, and Dukas, his co-author, is a professor at the university. Their work is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, one of the society's biological journals.

The researchers used several combinations of foods, both completely fresh and previously used, and of varying degrees of nutritional value, to compare the maggots' preferences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Z. Durisko, R. Dukas. Attraction to and learning from social cues in fruitfly larvae. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1767): 20131398 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1398

Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "By tracking maggots' food choices, scientists open significant new window into human learning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130731122630.htm>.
McMaster University. (2013, July 31). By tracking maggots' food choices, scientists open significant new window into human learning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130731122630.htm
McMaster University. "By tracking maggots' food choices, scientists open significant new window into human learning." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130731122630.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins