A Toast to Fruitfly Health

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Science  04 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6081, pp. 521
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6081.521-b

A propensity for rotting fruit puts the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster in contact with fermented material that can contain substantial amounts of alcohol. Milan et al. tested whether alcohol consumption by fly larvae might actually serve to protect them from nasty wasps that attack and lay their eggs in the fruit fly larvae. Indeed, the wasps appeared to be more sensitive to the toxic effects of alcohol than were the flies. The wasps laid fewer eggs on flies that were consuming ethanol and when they did, those eggs had disrupted development and were less likely to prevent proper development of the fly larvae. Furthermore, the flies seem to know what's good for them. When given a choice of food with or without alcohol, flies that were infected were more likely than control flies to seek out and consume the ethanol-spiked food. Whether humans might derive benefits from such a defense against parasites remains to be determined.

Curr. Biol. 22, 488 (2012).

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