The following article, FLY AGGRESSION & HUMAN ANGER By Dr. Stuart Mitchell, is from the PestWest 411 Newsletter, issue #13. We really liked it and thought you will too.

Biologists have begun to research whether flies can get angry. This research is part of a wider-scope study on how animal behavior is genetically related.

Do flies get angry? That is the key question, and possibly illustrates a fly’s repeated and increasingly tenacious return to your food plate after your every attempt to move it away. To study this question, researchers crafted an experiment using Drosophila (Fruit flies).

To promote the sought behavioral response, biologists designed a micro air pressure device. The concept was to place a food attractant at one point and then blow the flies away from the food upon approach. Upon repeated and unsuccesful food approaches by flies, biologists measured whether or not the flies became more and more agitated from the experience.

Results indicated that the flies did not have a need for the food. The singular act of blowing the flies and disrupting their orientation caused measurable agitation. This indicated to biologists that food stimulation was not neccessary to the research.

Primative, emotional-type behavior was exhibited by flies. A series of micro air pressure disruptions prompted such responses. Flies moved frantically within a test containor for a prolonged period of time. Even after flies calmed-down, they were hypersensitive to micro air bursts. Drosophila assume a reserved posture and stop moving in response to a steady wind pressure. This may be a sensory tool that enhances the way insects navigate in flight.

Drosophila reseach demonstrated that a pheromone (a chemical messenger) promotes agression. In addition, aggression is linked to specific neurons in the fly’s antennae. The findings lead biologists to believe there may be a relationship between the neurotransmitter dopamine and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A Drosophilan brain contains some 20,000 neurons, and has been a viable system to study the genetic basis of memory, learning, and circadian rhythms.

Drosophila have been a potent tool to study emotions. Humans and Fruit flies share many of the same genes and neurons that produce brain chemicals associated with psychiatric disorders.

To hear more from Dr. Stuart Mitchell be sure to attend the 2012 New York Pest Expo November 8th.


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