Aging Gracefully

Fruit flies in your kitchen are annoying little critters as they are telling all your visitors that you have over ripe (that is, rotting or fermenting) fruit available. They have a short life cycle; egg to adult takes a week, so your fruit fly restaurant gets crowded very quickly. The other side of the coin is that they make a good model system for scientists to study population behavior and change

In a paper published on Tuesday, Zou et al (1) described a detailed video study of their behavior, minute by minute throughout their lifetime. There was no privacy here. They were monitored as they rested, walked, flew, fed, drank or just scratched themselves.  The study showed that fly activity increased as the flies grew to their prime and then slowed down as they went past middle age and became elderly. Elderly flies spent much more time hanging around in cluster at the top of their cage complaining about the state of their world, the pushy exuberance of the younger guys etc.

A good healthy diet for fruit flies is a sugar and yeast smoothy. This keeps them up and flying well. As we all know (I think), a poor diet can lead to premature aging. A bad diet for fruit flies is to leave their vitamin B on the side of their plates and just drink the sugar water.

Using their tendency to laze around gossiping in clusters instead of getting around to their daily flying tasks as the indicator for reaching middle age, the team showed that middle and old age arrived much earlier when the flies were eating just junk food. A poor diet made the flies relatively hyperactive and increased their tendency after lights-out to stay hanging around bemoaning the state of their world. Rushing about, hustling on a poor diet had them middle aged in half the time of those living on a better diet and having a more relaxed well balanced lifestyle.


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