What gets turned on when a female gets 'turned on'?

Oct 05, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Hearing the courtship songs of males, not only gets females in the mood for mating, but can also prepare for potential infection, according to the latest research.

Biologists at the University of St Andrews made the finding after stimulating female fruit flies with artificial courtship songs.  They found increased activity in several genes, with the largest effects occurring for genes involved in immune function.

It is well-known that male animals often display elaborate signals during courtship like the peacock’s tail or courtship songs.

Male attempt to court females with a “song” created by vibrating their wings, and females are turned on more by the song of the right species.

The new research asks what happens within the female when she hears sexy song, especially what happens to the genes that are expressed within the female.

The research by Professor Michael Ritchie and Elina Immonen in the Centre for Biological Diversityat the university, examined the reaction to courtship song in the genes expressed by a female.

Genes involved in signalling and olfaction (smell) responded but the strongest responses were in involved in immunity.

The researchers believe the reaction could be in anticipation of mating.

Professor Ritchie said: “It seems that female preparation for mating may involve the rather unromantic anticipation of potential infection.”

The paper “The Genomic Response to Courtship Song” was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal today.

Professor Ritchie added: “Our results provide novel insight into molecular changes in in response to courtship stimulation.

“They suggest that changes thought to occur in response to mating, may begin during courtship and may represent an adaptive preparation for , including anticipation of deleterious interactions with male molecules or increased risk of pathogen infection.”

The researchers believe the discovery could provide insights into key evolutionary processes ranging from sexual selection and conflict to speciation.

Explore further: Fruit flies crucial to basic research

Related Stories

Fruit fly antennae are tuned in

Apr 01, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The antennal ears of different fruit fly species are actively tuned to high-frequency components of their respective mating songs, according to new research led by University College London ...

Hormones may affect how brain listens

May 03, 2006

From zebra fish to humans, reproductive hormones govern behavioral responses to courtship signals. A new Emory University study conducted in songbirds suggests that hormones may also modulate the way the auditory system processes ...

Why you can't hurry love

Jan 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have developed a mathematical model of the mating game to help explain why courtship is often protracted. The study, by researchers at UCL (University College London), University of Warwick and ...

Recommended for you

Fruit flies crucial to basic research

23 minutes ago

The world around us is full of amazing creatures. My favorite is an animal the size of a pinhead, that can fly and land on the ceiling, that stages an elaborate (if not beautiful) courtship ritual, that can ...

Crete's mystery croc killed by cold snap

23 minutes ago

A man-eating crocodile that became an attraction on the Greek island of Crete last year after its mysterious appearance in a lake has died, probably of cold, an official said Monday.

Hunting for living fossils in Indonesian waters

53 minutes ago

The Coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) was thought to be extinct for more than 60 million years and took the science world by storm in 1938 when it was re-discovered living in South Africa. This fish has ...

An elephant never forgets the way to the watering hole

2 hours ago

A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B tracked the movement of elephants across the African savannah. The elephants chose the shortest distances towards watering holes, pin-pointing the lo ...

A peek at the secret life of pandas

Mar 27, 2015

Reclusive giant pandas fascinate the world, yet precious little is known about how they spend their time in the Chinese bamboo forests. Until now.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.