Fruit fly males make for jealous mates, going to great lengths to ensure they alone sire a female’s offspring. After mating, males discourage any future rivals by leaving behind an anti-aphrodisiac molecule, known as a taste pheromone. Relatively little is known about how these chemical signals are perceived by insects, but this is changing, thanks to a recent study of this mating deterrent in flies. By selectively inactivating neurons [nerve cells] and testing the flies’ response to the taste pheromone, researchers were able to track the neurons involved in processing the signal, from receptors in the flies’ legs to cells in their brains, highlighted here. They also identified a crucial signalling molecule, tachykinin, without which males can't perceive the pheromone. Shedding light on the still mysterious mechanisms of taste perception in insects, their work also raises the possibility of one day harnessing the effects of tachykinin to control fly populations.
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