Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fruitless Smell
13 June 2016

Fruitless Smell

As the old joke goes: time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. But to enjoy their tasty treat, the insects first have to sniff it out. Fruit fly antennae – seen here under a high-powered fluorescence microscope – are packed full of special nerve cells called olfactory receptors, which detect smelly molecules in the air and tell the fly whether food (or a potential mate) is nearby. There’s a crucial difference between the two antennae in this image. The one on the left is normal, while the one on the right comes from a fly lacking a gene called alhambra, which works together with another well-known fruit fly gene called fruitless. Male fruit flies with faulty fruitless have problems getting down to mating with female flies – in fact, they don’t seem very interested in the ladies at all, with some preferring to go for the boys.

Written by Kat Arney

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