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Fruit Flies Medicate Offspring After Seeing Parasites

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Science  22 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6122, pp. 947-950
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229625

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Mother Knows Best

Fruit flies feed on decomposing fruit, a food source rich in alcohol, and thus have evolved a high alcohol tolerance not shared by many other species. High levels of ingested alcohol protect fly larvae against parasitic wasp larvae. Kacsoh et al. (p. 947) show that this therapeutic use of alcohol to combat a parasite has an intergenerational component. When fly mothers were permitted to see parasitic wasps, they preferentially laid their eggs on substrates containing high alcohol levels as a way to medicate their offspring against potential infection.