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Dr Stephen Goodwin and colleagues at the University of Oxford are step closer to understanding why female Drosophila melangoster fruit flies change their behaviour after mating.

While virgin female Drosophila are highly sexually receptive and rapidly copulate with appropriate males, after copulation these females shift their priorities, becoming less receptive to further mating and focussing instead on feeding and producing eggs.

The team’s research in Current Biology shows that this change in behaviour is due to concentration of the neuromodulator octopamine. When the octopamine level in unmated virgin females was artificially increased by researchers, the files exhibited behaviour usually only seen in successfully mated females.

The team also pinpointed the specific neurons affected by octopamine, which are located in the abdominal ganglion, a part of the fly’s nervous system that is equivalent to the mammalian spinal cord.

Story seen on the Wellcome Trust Blog.