March 30, 2023

Air pollution is ruining the sex lives of flies, study finds

Summarizing the News

  • A study revealed that high levels of pollution destroy the sex lives of flies.
  • Ozone is capable of altering the composition of pheromones, which are used to attract mates.
  • Exposure to the ingredient causes the species to not even know how to distinguish between males and females.
  • The species is responsible for the decay of the fruits and the enrichment of the soil with nutrients.

Ozone greatly inhibits the sex life of many insects
Reproduction/Benjamin Fabian/Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

Pollution not only affects our lungs and our longevity, but also destroys the sex lives of flies. The side effect is caused by high levels of ozone from pollutants released into the air, which prevent the communication of attractants, which are necessary for the mating of various insects.

The discovery was made by a study led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, in Germany, and published in the journal Nature communications.

Due to the pollution, the male flies faced great difficulty in recognizing the females, which affects the reproduction of the animals. Previous studies have shown that many species of fruit flies are bisexual, but the new research found greater causation with the toxic gas.

Even small amounts of ozone were enough to “drastically corrupt” the insects’ reproductive interactions, as the molecule – known as trioxygen and common in the stratosphere, but a pollutant when produced near the planet’s surface – changes the chemical makeup of pheromones. used for attraction between species.

The study exposed 50 male flies to 100 parts per billion (ppb) of ozone (average global ozone levels range between 12 and 67 ppb) for two hours. The pollutant drastically reduced the presence of a pheromone called cis-vaccenyl acetate (cVA) in the flies.

As a result, ozone males took twice as long to be selected as females.

“The male announces himself with pheromones. The more he produces, the more attractive he becomes to the female,” revealed Markus Knaden, who led the study.

Soon after, scientists realized that the males couldn’t even distinguish themselves from the females.

“At first, it was a really funny observation to see very long chains where one male would swim to the next and then the next in line,” Knaden added.

At some point, the ozone-filled males began to jump “at anything small and moving a little.”

Although fruit flies are considered pests in many countries, they are important insects for breaking down rotten fruit, enriching the soil with nutrients.

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