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Fruit Flies Get Drunk Before Sex, After Sexual Rejection and in Pretty Much Every Other Situation…

Fruit Flies Get Drunk Before Sex, After Sexual Rejection and in Pretty Much Every Other Situation, Too

I’ve found my new spirit animal

If there’s one thing science has taught us, it’s that scientists love doing stuff with fruit flies. Want to study personal space boundaries? Get some fruit flies. Want to study how animals choose between sleep or sex? Get some fruit flies. Want to figure out how to kill all those Goddamn fruit flies? Get some fruit flies (and then drown them in an inch of vinegar inside a canning jar, apparently).

But scientists have, in recent years, taken their fruit fly obsession to the next level by studying their alcohol intake, discovering in the process that fruit fly drinking culture is alarmingly similar to our own, albeit with a few more — and in many cases hairier — limbs.

Fruit flies, you see, eat mostly fruit (I know, this is heady stuff). Specifically, they like rotting fruit, which has fermented to the point where it hits the fruit flies with the equivalent buzz of a few beers for a human. In an ideal scenario, several flies will congregate around a piece of decaying fruit and, once satiated (and inebriated), proceed to try and find a willing mate.

If that sounds vaguely familiar: Yes, I have essentially just described the fruit fly equivalent of hanging out in a bar, getting drunk and trying to get laid (except that the bar is a rancid peach, and the quickie in the back of a Ford Aerostar Wagon is instead a process whereby the female inserts her ovipositor into the male’s genital opening to obtain sperm and oh my God fly sex is disgusting).

Perhaps even more relatable is the fact that the fruit flies who fail to have sex will drown their rejection in more boozy fruit, presumably while listening to the fruit fly version of “All By Myself” and sobbing wretchedly from their giant, compound eyes.

When faced with repeated rejection, the flies quickly end up with an alcohol problem. This is where a new study, led by Fred Wolf of the University of California, Merced, has made inroads, by identifying a protein in a particular type of fruit fly brain cell tied to alcohol tolerance and preference (which are key components of addiction). The discovery helped researchers understand why it is that, after being exposed to alcohol only once, the flies habitually choose booze-infused fruit over non-alcoholic options.

Wolf believes the research will be important when looking at how to treat and prevent alcohol addiction in humans. As quoted on Phys.org, Wolf states that, “Flies are more like us than we’d like to believe. The structure of their brains looks very different, but when you get down to the molecular level, it’s basically the same.”

Meanwhile, if you’re ever short of drinking buddies, just pop open a cold one over the fruit bowl and you’re sure to be in good company. Who knows — you may even get lucky.