Genes and Gender

This summer my apple trees, with their sweet droppings all about the orchard, were producing an enormous population of fruit flies. Apart from being occasionally annoying and making a bit of noise, they would not seem to be a subject to capture one’s attention. At least I never thought so, until I read a fascinating study about fruit flies that indicated our gender may be largely connected to our genes.

Geneticist Barry Dickson and graduate student Ebru Demir, of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria made a small biochemical change to see what might happen. That is – genetically altering a gene that they then engineered into female fruit flies. This very specific gene alteration would always make male fruit fly protein.

These genetically altered female fruit flies behaved like amorous male flies – perusing other female fruit flies and wooing them with the species elaborate courtship display. This gene altering and its subsequent behavioral results were reported in the scientific professional journal Cell. The engineered females rejected males that tried to mate with them and began to imitate the multi-step male courting dance which is truly fascinating but a bit too racy to describe in this blog. (I am not kidding!) The two scientists hypothesize that the altered gene sets into motion a cascade of genetic changes to re-program the female fruit flies sexual behavior.

One of the most spell binding books I have ever read about behavior and gender is Melvin Konner’s BRILLIANT, stunning book, “The Tangled Wing”. His book is about humans and not fruit flies. So, if you are fascinated by how our amazing hormones and genetics create and effect our thoughts, behaviors and even sexual preferences, this book is a MUST read.

You know when someone asks the question “if you had to be marooned on a desert island for 2 years with someone, who would it be?” – I’d definitely choose Melvin Konner and pick his brain about all his research and amazing findings. Strongly recommended reading, fascinating subject.

With all good wishes,
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