Like humans, fruit flies too learn from experienced females

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Washington, Sept 17 (ANI): Like humans, novice fruit flies tend to learn from their more experienced counterparts i.e. mated fruit flies, say researchers.

While looking for the evolutionary roots of social learning in insects, researchers from McMaster University found that when the novices landed on decaying fruit where the mated females had laid their eggs, they preferred to lay their eggs in the same place rather than looking for other ripe fruit.

"For humans, our entire culture is based on social learning so it is very natural for us to gain valuable knowledge from one another, but most animals are completely on their own," said Reuven Dukas, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, who co-authored the study along with graduate student Sachin Sarin.

He said that the new study suggests that even solitary insects can exhibit social learning, which raises the possibility that learning from each other has promoted the evolution of socializing among insects as a survival mechanism.

The team found no social learning, however, when the observer females were exposed to food with more ambiguous social information provided by the presence of virgin fruit flies.

Similarly, the presence of an aggregation pheromone-a pheromone derived from male fruit flies which attracts both sexes-had no influence.

"The fruit fly is much more sophisticated than many people think or really want to believe," said Dukas.

"It shares many of the same genes and the same compounds that control learning in humans.

"This first documentation of social learning in fruit flies opens up exciting avenues for research on the evolution and neurogenetics of social learning," Dukas added.

The study appears in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

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