Gay Animals | Genetics | Nature | News | Science

Scientists Turn Homosexuality On and Off in Fruit Flies

A team of researchers was able to alter the sexuality of fruit flies within a few hours by altering a key neurotransmitter in the flies' brains which they had earlier determined factored into the sexuality of the tiny insects.

FruitfliesLiveScience reports: "'Based on our previous work, we reasoned that GB mutants might show homosexual behavior because their glutamatergic synapses were altered in some way,' Featherstone said. 'Homosexual courtship might be sort of an 'overreaction' to sexual stimuli.' To test this, the researchers genetically altered synapse strength, independent of GB. They also gave flies drugs to alter synapse strength. As predicted, they were able to turn fly homosexuality on and off, within hours. 'It was amazing. I never thought we'd be able to do that sort of thing, because sexual orientation is supposed to be hard-wired,' Featherstone said. 'This fundamentally changes how we think about this behavior.' The team figured fly brains maintain two sensory circuits: one to trigger heterosexual behavior and one for homosexual. When GB suppresses glutamatergic synapses, the homosexual circuit is blocked, the thinking goes. So they did more tests. As expected, without GB to suppress synapse strength, the flies no longer interpreted smells the same way. The smells in question come in the form of pheromones, chemicals that affect sexual behavior in much of the animal kingdom."

These scientists might want to speak with scientists in the UK who used pheromones to halt the population explosion of brown-tailed moths. Men living and working at a Royal National Lifeboat Institute at Spurn Point in Yorkshire "were developing rashes and breathing problems from the poisonous hairs of the larvae blown in the wind" because there were so many moths. Once the pheromones were spread, the moths became confused and some were persuaded to be gay.

You may have missed...
Gaydar: Do You Have A Counter-Clockwise Whorl [tr]
Gay Flamingos Adopt Abandoned Chick in Britain [tr]
Researchers: Captivity Brings Out the Lesbian in Koalas [tr]
San Francisco Gay Penguins Move in, Improve Neighborhood [tr]

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. "Fruit"flies? How convenient!!! I didn't know that homosexuality, which applies to Homo sapiens, also can be used for other species besides humans...

    Posted by: Bryan | Dec 10, 2007 10:45:05 AM

  2. So, could they also turn off the heterosexuality?

    Posted by: Bobby | Dec 10, 2007 10:53:47 AM

  3. hey bryan, methinks you're confusing the 2 different homos. Latin homo - human; greek homo - same.

    Posted by: charlie | Dec 10, 2007 10:56:19 AM

  4. Well, I hope they're not barebacking--only irresponsible fruit flies would do that.

    And to name gay moths "brown tail" is the ultimate in anti-gay slurs. Stop associating us with feces, DAMMIT!

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Dec 10, 2007 10:59:32 AM

  5. Homosexuality doesn't apply exclusively to humans. "Homo" from the Latin "homos" meaning same, and "sexuality" meaning, well, sex. It just means attraction to the same sex. Anything organism can be a homosexual! Holler.

    Posted by: David | Dec 10, 2007 11:01:45 AM

  6. good point bobby, if overpopulation continues at the alarming rate it's going they just might have to "turn off" hetereosexuality for a while until the sexes realign themselves (thank you myra breckinridge!) and the planet is ecologically balanced once more. as for the famed pheromones, i'm all for that, just go to any leather levi bar where the man are hot and sweaty and breathe in deeply of that male, macho stink that arouses me every time. no colognes please, nothing to mask that wild animal smell. back in my old cruising days i used to put a few drops of piss (sometimes cum) behind my ears, (piss and cum are loaded with pheromones!) just a little trick inspired by some midnight reading of "the satanic witch" by the late, great and ever so fabulous anton levey. a book a wholeheartedly recommend to you all.

    Posted by: the queen | Dec 10, 2007 11:10:06 AM

  7. How about we turn off your funding like a lightswitch, Featherstone? Hrmm? Just like that! Fascinating! Then you can't do any more stupid studies on how to intentionally corrupt a biologically sound function evolved in nature. Hardwired indeed. Yeah, and I can change the polarity of a 220 circuit and plug your 110v toaster into it too. Whooohoo! See how you like that! Assholes. Anything can be changed into anything, that includes biochemistry. The question is, what the fuck for?

    Cure for HIV, anyone? While HIV has been a pandemic for at least 20 years now, these assholes want to fiddle with the sexuality of insects. What for? Perhaps to dampen then onslaught of a plague of insects, brought on inevitably by mankind's wholesale destruction of the environment? In the mean time, we can now sell a drug "therapy" to cure you of your gayness while you starve to death because you can't grow any food on the face of the planet.

    Posted by: FizziekruntNT | Dec 10, 2007 11:31:38 AM

  8. I noticed a fruit fly tapping his foot in the stall next to me. What's up with that?

    Posted by: Pugzz | Dec 10, 2007 11:33:56 AM

  9. there has to be more important things they could be researching! like cures for AIDS and cancer???

    Posted by: Dan b | Dec 10, 2007 11:47:32 AM

  10. The scientists didn't even bother defining the term "gay." Does "gay" simply imply homosexual acts or does it encompass a set of social behaviors, preferences, and perspectives? Sounds like the scientists of this ridiculous study are drawing from an American definition of "gay" and, as much as we tend to believe that the United States is the center of the universe, it kind of is not. They should be careful about the broader social significances they're drawing from this stupid study.

    Posted by: Lien | Dec 10, 2007 11:49:11 AM

  11. How is this a stupid study? Scientists were able to alter homosexual behavior in flies. A huge part of the religious right thinks that homosexuality is learned and chosen. Studies like this add credence to what some still believe is a hypothesis: homosexuality is not learned, it is hardwired and our attraction to the same sex is innate.

    And just because scientists are studying fruit flies doesn't mean they've stopped search for a cure for HIV or cancer. Jeez.

    Posted by: David | Dec 10, 2007 1:48:03 PM

  12. I'm pretty sure that the researchers that work with fruit flies don't do HIV research (so to say 'Stop doing this pointless research and cure diseases' is not relevant). From the article it sounds like these researchers are dealing with smell, a common topic of research when using flies.

    Not all scientific research has to have the purpose of helping people. Some research is just for the sake of research. But sometimes these types of discoveries influence other research that does directly impact our lives.

    I'm of the opinion that if we want to get angry at anyone it should be the author of the article, who has turned an interesting, non-political scientific discovery into a gay rights issue.

    Posted by: bundaman | Dec 10, 2007 2:01:19 PM

  13. "I'm of the opinion that if we want to get angry at anyone it should be the author of the article, who has turned an interesting, non-political scientific discovery into a gay rights issue."

    I don't know, the results seem to indicate that homosexuality can be "cured" by "turning it off." Don't you think the fundies will run with this interpretation?

    Posted by: Stephen | Dec 10, 2007 2:27:14 PM

  14. "I don't know, the results seem to indicate that homosexuality can be "cured" by "turning it off." Don't you think the fundies will run with this interpretation?"

    Posted by: Stephen | Dec 10, 2007 2:27:14 PM

    Honestly this was the first thing that I thought of. granted the research is far from being applicable to humans, these finding seem to be a double-edged sword in that yes it validates the "biological gayness" but it also sheds light on the fact that gay can be changed... with a potential drug or treatment... I shudder to think what the world would be like if bigoted parents forced there children to undergo said future treatment in order to prevent them from being gay... a truly frightening prospect

    "Get gaygaurd.... a treatment to prevent homosexuality in the ones you love...."

    Posted by: Nick | Dec 10, 2007 3:42:32 PM

  15. In the SunTimes article about this research, the studied fruit flies were bisexual because the GB gene prevents the flies from differentiating between male and female pheromones. When they turned off the gene, the flies behaved heterosexually only. Are there flies, which, when the GB gene is turned off, behave homosexually only? Could hint at a far more complex genetic basis of homosexuality.

    Posted by: Omar | Dec 10, 2007 4:32:33 PM

  16. I should warn everyone that "LiveScience" reports on the most baseless speculation imaginable, it's kind of the Weekly World News of science reporting.

    Posted by: anon ( | Dec 10, 2007 6:32:07 PM

    homosexual behavior can be altered in FRUIT FLIES! I don't know yet if it is even a valid study, but you can't make any implications and that "supposed to be hard wired" bit is absolute crap. They don't know what other behavior is even altered because we don't really know a lot about fruit fly behavior nor sexuality. It's really neat and good science will come out of it, but it sure isn't any proof that sexuality can be changed-- even for fruit flies.

    Posted by: justincredible | Dec 11, 2007 12:36:57 AM

Post a comment


« «Anti-Gay Carolers Wish Target Shoppers a Homophobic Holiday« «