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Fruit Flies Can Sense Time (No Watch Required)

posted: 05/28/15
by: Danny Clemens
Male fruit fly on a blade of grass macro
thinkstock

We already knew that fruit flies can feel fear. Now, more interesting news about the tiny, buzzing creatures: they have a strong sense of time.

In a new study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers tempted fruit flies with two different irresistible scents: menthol in the morning and mushrooms in the evening (well -- irresistible scents for a fruit fly). After three days, the clever creatures learned to adjust their scent preferences based on the time of day.

There is one caveat: the time-telling mechanism only worked when the flies were kept on a regular schedule of daylight or in total darkness. Flies kept in a room with the lights on all day still developed an affinity for certain odors, but that association was not related to the time of day.

Study author Martin Heisenberg, of Rudolf Virchow Center in Germany, will now turn his attention to investigating the molecular mechanism responsible for the time and odor associations.

"If even the fly, with its miniature brain, has the sense of time, most animals may have it," he remarked.

Click here to learn more about the study

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