A recent study conducted by the University of Exeter revealed that female insects that are found in colder climates are much more promiscuous compared to female insects that are found in hotter regions.

Researchers discovered that female fruit flies are genetically hardwired to have more sexual partners whatever the climate, while other female fruit flies remain in monogamous relationships.

In a study issued in the journal Behavioral Ecology, scientists examined how the temperature in a certain region affected the inclination of female Drosophila pseudoobscura or fruit flies toward mating. They concluded that despite the influence of environment and temperature, the sexual behavior of fruit flies is still determined by individual genes.

Lead author Dr. Michelle Taylor explained that sexual behavior is programmed into females, especially because biologically, with polyandry, female fruit flies will be able to create more offspring which are genetically diverse and can survive better.

"This is a textbook example of the role of genes versus environment," said Taylor.

Taylor and her colleagues also wondered how and why female fruit flies preferred monogamy. She said that further studies should be done to find out how they remain in monogamy.

Previous studies have shown that other species of female reptiles, fish and birds also have monogamous and promiscuous behavior.

Researchers gathered and examined fruit flies from the cold climes of Montana and the hot climate of Arizona. The group observed the insects' behavior at their laboratory in Cornwall.

The researchers inbred fruit flies from more than 40 generations and preserved their genotypes. Afterwards, they analyzed how female fruit flies would choose male partners while in an environment that is unlike their natural habitat. They noted how many number of male fruit flies they would accept in a certain environment.

By testing how the genotypes would affect the behavior of female fruit flies, researchers found that more female fruit flies mated with partners in colder conditions, while more preferred to be monogamous in hotter settings.

Taylor said that these results are essential in the study of how genes and environment contribute towards behavior, and how it affects the failure or success of wildlife populations.

"Evolutionarily speaking, this could be one reason why some populations are able to adapt to changing environments while others go extinct," added Taylor.

Photo : John Tann | Flickr

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