Happy flies look for habitat just like their old homes

October 21st, 2009 - 12:12 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 21 (ANI): Adult fruit flies, which were happy in their youth, tend to choose a habitat similar to ones they were born in, according to new study.

Led by Judy Stamps from the University of California at Davis, the study provides new insight into how animals choose places to live and raise their young.

Most animals leave their birthplaces before they start to raise families of their own, a phenomenon known as natal dispersal.

Scientists have noticed that dispersers tend to settle down in new habitats that are similar to where they were born-even when they have several habitat options to choose from.

The behaviour is seen in a wide range of animals, including insects, reptiles and mammals. The researchers have even coined a term for it- natal habitat preference induction.

But why animals choose a new home that is like their birthplace is a mystery and thus, the researchers set up an experiment designed to give fruit flies either a “good” or “bad” experience in their youths.

They set up two fruit fly habitats containing different types of food and shelter, and placed flies in the pupa stage-just before they become full-fledge flies-into those habitats.

Some young flies were given the happy experience of having full access to tasty food and safe hiding places after they emerged from their pupae. But others were given a less positive experience. They could smell the food and see the shelter, but were unable to eat or hide.

After the flies reached maturity, the food and shelters were removed, and the flies were provided with a choice of two new habitats in which to live.

The flies that had the good experience in youth tended to choose habitats that contained the same type of food and shelter as where they grew up, the researchers found.

The flies that had the negative experience showed no preference for habitats similar to their birth habitats.

Stamps said that the results suggested that “associative learning” is involved when young fruit flies choose a new habitat.

Flies are apparently able to connect cues from their birthplaces with the experiences they had there.

The study has been published in the American Naturalist. (ANI)

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