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: Dutch barnacle geese have more active immune system than same species in the North

Provided by University of St Andrews

4.7 /5 (3 votes)

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

Nature offers video of 10 cutest animals of 2014

7 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The journal Nature has released a video that ventures a bit from its traditional strictly-science approach to technical journalism—it's all about the cutest animal stories of the past year ( ...

Big data and the science of the Christmas tree

10 hours ago

Often called the "Cadillac of Christmas trees," the Fraser Fir has everything a good Christmas tree should have: an even triangular shape, a sweet piney fragrance, and soft needles that (mostly) stay attached ...

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.