Tag: spines

Study reveals sexual tactics of male flies by shaving their genitals with a laser

By Ed Yong | January 5, 2010 7:00 pm

If you looked at the penis of a Drosophila fly under a microscope (for reasons best known only to yourself), you’d see an array of wince-inducing hooks and spines. These spines are present in all Drosophila and they’re so varied that a trained biologist could use them to identify the species of the owner.

What’s the purpose of these spines? Are they intended to actually wound the female during mating? Do they help the male fly to scrape out the sperm of his rivals? Do they actually pierce the walls of the female’s genital tract, allowing the male to bypass any barriers to his sperm, as other insects do? All of these explanations have been put forward, and it seems that all of them are wrong.

The spines are nothing more than biological Velcro. During sex, they help the male fly to clasp onto his mate from the inside so he can’t be easily dislodged. We know this thanks to Michal Polak and Arash Rashed, who shaved male flies with a laser to see if their sexual performance would be affected.

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MORE ABOUT: fly, laser, penis, shave, spines
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