London: Fruit flies can smell healthy antioxidants that protect cells from the harmful influences in their food, finds a study.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, and University of Lund, Sweden, found that vinegar flies were able to detect those protective substances by using olfactory cues.
"Odours that are exclusively derived from antioxidants attract flies, increase feeding behaviour and trigger oviposition in female flies," they noted.
Antioxidants are natural food ingredients. Their main task is to neutralise so-called "free radicals" which are produced in the process of oxidation and which are responsible for cell degeneration.
Hydroxycinnamic acids are secondary plant metabolites and important dietary antioxidants.
Hydroxycinnamic acids are found in high amounts in fruit.
Since fruit is the preferred breeding substrate of fruit flies, scientists took a closer look at these substances and their possible effect on the flies.
This form of olfactory detection is not only a phenomenon in insects.
"It has also been shown in humans that odours that we perceive as pleasant or appetising are, in fact, derived from important and healthy nutrients, such as essential amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins," explained Marcus Stensmyr from University of Lund.
The scientists will now try to identify further neural pathways involved in the detection of essential nutrients, which ultimately trigger the flies` behaviour.