Happy fruit flies look for habitat just like their old homes
Washington: A new study has shown that adult fruit flies, which were happy in their youth, tend to choose a habitat similar to ones they were born in.
The study offers new insight into how animals choose places to live and raise their young.
According to Judy Stamps from the University of California at Davis, like humans who move out of their parents`` houses in adulthood, most animals leave their birthplaces before they start to raise families of their own, a phenomenon known as natal dispersal.
Scientists have noticed that dispersers tend to settle down in new habitats that are similar to where they were born - even when they have several habitat options to choose from.
But why animals choose a new home that is like their birthplace remains mystery for researchers.
In the new study, researchers sought to determine whether these flies are hard-wired to do this, or it is a conditioned response that depends on the experience in youth.
During the study, researchers set up an experiment designed to give fruit flies either a "good" or "bad" experience in their youths.
Some young flies were given the happy experience of having full access to tasty food and safe hiding places after they emerged from their pupae, while others were given a less positive experience. They could smell the food and see the shelter, but were unable to eat or hide.
After the flies reached maturity, the food and shelters were removed, and the flies were provided with a choice of two new habitats in which to live.
The findings revealed that flies that had the good experience in youth tended to choose habitats that contained the same type of food and shelter as where they grew up.
The flies that had the negative experience showed no preference for habitats similar to their birth habitats.
Stamps said that "associative learning" is involved when young fruit flies choose a new habitat. Flies are apparently able to connect cues from their birthplaces with the experiences they had there, reports Science Daily.
"It would be fun to see whether humans with happy childhoods also prefer to settle in areas that are similar to those in which they were born and raised. Are we more likely to choose a new habitat like a large city versus a small town versus countryside based on where we were raised and what happened to us there?" she added.
The study appears in journal American Naturalist.
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