THURSDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Fruit flies have a special
brain circuit that prevents them from eating, or laying their eggs
on, spoiled food that contains toxic molds and bacteria, a new
This brain circuit detects a chemical called geosmin, which is
produced by harmful fungi and bacteria, according to the authors of
the study, which appears in the Dec. 6 issue of the journal
"When this compound is present in the air, even the most
attractive food source becomes unattractive," senior study author
Bill Hansson, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, in
Germany, said in a journal news release.
"This is highly interesting, as it's seldom that single
compounds have a direct behavioral effect and that they are active
at extremely low concentrations as we observe here," he added.
Hansson and his colleagues studied the common fruit fly (
Drosophila melanogaster), which feeds on yeast that grows in
fermenting fruit. They pinpointed a specialized neural circuit in
the fly that is highly sensitive to low concentrations of geosmin
and responds exclusively to its odor, described as "earthy."
This geosmin-detection system was found in multiple species in
Drosophila, which suggests that the circuit evolved to keep
the flies away from toxic feeding and breeding sites in the
environment, the researchers said.
The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology has more about the
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