Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The 'in-law effect': Male fruit flies sleep around but females keep it in the family

Date:
September 24, 2013
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
A study of mating preferences in fruit flies (Drosophila) has found that males and females respond to the sexual familiarity of potential mates in fundamentally different ways. While male fruit flies preferred to court an unknown female over their previous mate or her sisters, female fruit flies displayed a predilection for their 'brothers-in-law'.

Smell plays an important role in fruit fly mating preferences.
Credit: Andrι Karwath

Male fruit flies like to have a variety of sexual partners, whereas females prefer to stick with the same mate -- or move on to his brothers.

Related Articles


An Oxford University study of mating preferences in fruit flies (Drosophila) has found that males and females respond to the sexual familiarity of potential mates in fundamentally different ways.

While male fruit flies preferred to court an unknown female over their previous mate or her sisters, female fruit flies displayed a predilection for their 'brothers-in-law'.

These responses were significantly weaker in mutated flies with no sense of smell, suggesting smell plays an important role in the mating choices highlighted in the study.

The findings, which could have an impact on how we view mating preferences in other species, are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

First author Dr Cedric Tan, of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said: 'The aim of the research was to test whether fruit fly males and females prefer to mate with the same partners repeatedly, or whether they prefer to mate with different individuals each time. In addition, we aimed to test whether males and females show mating preferences for the siblings of their previous mates.

'First, we found that males prefer to court novel females. This is a widespread phenomenon in many species, particularly mammals, but this is the first evidence of this phenomenon in fruit flies. More importantly, though, we discovered that females don't share this preference -- if anything they go for a familiar partner.

'Furthermore, these preferences extend to the "in-laws" -- males avoid their "sisters-in-law" (their previous partner's sisters) whereas females prefer their "brothers-in-law" (their previous partner's brothers) compared with a random potential partner. Males and females seem to detect the siblings of their previous partners using smell, because these preferences are much weaker in mutant flies that can't smell.'

Using a species of fruit fly known as Drosophila melanogaster, the researchers conducted two experiments in which a single male or female was exposed to two potential partners.

In the first experiment, one potential partner was new and one was their previous mate. In the second experiment, one potential partner was new and one was from the same family and rearing environment as the previous mate.

The experiments were then recreated with the mutated fruit flies that had no sense of smell.

Dr Tan said: 'Sibling relationships are important in sexual interactions, and many scientific studies have focused largely on two things: male-female relatedness and male-male relatedness.

'With the former, brothers and sisters are expected to avoid mating with one another as inbred offspring suffer a higher mortality. With the latter, brothers are predicted to act less aggressively with each other when competing for females. In this study, we show that sibling relationships can alter sexual behaviour in a novel way -- that is, the "in-law effect." '

While the reasons behind the findings are not entirely clear, potential explanations include males benefiting from mating with dissimilar females through the higher genetic diversity of their offspring. Females, on the other hand, may prefer to mate with familiar males to avoid the health risks posed by allowing sperm from multiple partners into their bodies.

Discussing the possibilities opened up by the findings, Dr Tan said: 'First, it would be interesting to see if this sexual preference extends to other species of animal. Second, we could examine why males and females behave in opposite manners -- that is, what the benefit is of males avoiding "sisters-in-law" and females preferring "brothers-in-law." For example, it could be that males are avoiding "sisters-in-law" because they look or smell like their first partners when they would prefer a novel female.

'Third, our study showed that both sexes use smell in detecting which individuals to sexually pursue or resist. This opens the door to investigating whether other senses such as vision and hearing could mediate recognition of "in-laws" in this key genetic model organism.'


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. C. K. W. Tan, H. Lovlie, E. Greenway, S. F. Goodwin, T. Pizzari, S. Wigby. Sex-specific responses to sexual familiarity, and the role of olfaction in Drosophila. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1771): 20131691 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1691

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "The 'in-law effect': Male fruit flies sleep around but females keep it in the family." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130924193631.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2013, September 24). The 'in-law effect': Male fruit flies sleep around but females keep it in the family. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130924193631.htm
University of Oxford. "The 'in-law effect': Male fruit flies sleep around but females keep it in the family." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130924193631.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) — As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) — Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) — Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
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