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Researchers: Fruit flies force their young to drink alcohol to kill off parasites

February 22, 2013

Researchers: Fruit flies force their young to drink alcohol to kill off parasites

Fruit flies medicate their young to defend against parasites.

Researchers from Emory University have discovered that fruit flies force their young to drink alcohol. However, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation behind this seemingly unconscionable behavior. When fruit flies detect parasitic wasps in their environment, they place their eggs in an alcohol-soaked piece of fermenting fruit, basically forcing their young to drink alcohol to medicate against infection. The study’s findings were published in the journal Science.

“Hosts have numerous defenses against parasites, of which behavioral immune responses are an important but underappreciated component. Here we describe a behavioral immune response that Drosophila melanogaster uses against endoparasitoid wasps. We found that when flies see wasps, they switch to laying eggs in alcohol-laden food sources that protect hatched larvae from infection,” write the authors in the study’s abstract.

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