A new study has indicated that a sexy, youthful smell may make up for advancing age in fruit flies.
The University of Michigan's research says male fruit flies find romance with female flies coated with pheromone - chemicals produced by an organism to communicate or attract another.
It demonstrates how age-related changes in pheromone production can reduce sexual attractiveness.
The study examined how pheromones play a role in the sexual attractiveness and aging process of the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, says Scott D Pletcher, PhD, senior author of the study and PhD, associate professor in the University of Michigan's Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and research associate professor at the Institute of Gerontology.
Researchers first showed that older flies were significantly less attractive than younger flies. They then discovered that the profiles of different pheromones that flies produce, called cuticular hydrocarbons, change with age.
Using a specially designed holding arena, researchers introduced a male fly into a chamber that contained two females - a young fly and an old fly. The females were decapitated to eliminate the chances they'd influence the male fly with their behavior.
Researchers used state-of-the-art video tracking software to accurately assess the behavior of the male fly. Those videos showed that the male was much more attracted to the young fly. Similar experiments revealed that the same was true for females; they preferred younger males.
But later, researchers later removed the pheromones on young and old flies. They reapplied either pheromones from young or old flies to those blank flies and found that the choosing males preferred flies covered with the young pheromone.
"Our research showed this attractiveness was driven by the production of this cuticular hydrocarbon," said Pletcher.
"We found in the end that regardless of the age of the fly, the choosing flies really went crazy for the flies that carried the young pheromone," he explained.
Fruit flies live just 60 to 90 days, which makes them a powerful tool for studying aging. As they age, their appearance changes. These results are important for studying what impacts the fruit fly lifespan.
"We're excited about these results because they may help us leverage our knowledge of the mechanisms that drive the aging process. This research indicates that the mechanisms important for aging also influence outward attractiveness," stated Pletcher.
"Our hope is we can take a trait like attractiveness and study the connection between attractiveness and health," he added.
The finding was recently published in The Journal of Experimental Biology.