Scientists breed a generation of fruit flies that can COUNT
Apparently a team of geneticists have learned nothing from the 1986 horror film The Fly about a scientific experiment gone awry.
Scientists from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and the University of California announced this week that they have successfully bred a generation of fruit flies that can count – and it only took them 40 tries.
The evolutionary geneticists achieved their goal by subjecting the insects to a stimulus designed to teach them basic numerical skills, Wired UK reported.
The findings, announced at the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Canada, could lead to a better understanding of how humans process numbers and the genetics behind dyscalculia — a learning disability that affects a person’s ability to count and do basic arithmetic.
‘The obvious next step is to see how [the flies'] neuro-architecture has changed,’ said geneticist Tristan Long, who admitted that far more research is needed to grasp the full implication of the results.
In order to do that, scientists will have to compare the genetic make-up of a math-minded fruit fly with that of a standard test fly to pinpoint the mutation.
The research team repeatedly subjected test flies to a 20-minute mathematics training session.
The flies were exposed to two, three or four flashes of light, with two or four flashes coinciding with a shake of the container the flies were kept in.
Following a pause, the flies were again subjected to the flashing light.
None of the first 39 generations of flies prepared themselves for a repeat of the shake since they could not recognize the difference between two, three or four flashes — until the 40th generation of descendants came along.
The findings support the theory that numerical skills are ancient constructs.
And flies are not the only animals capable of grasping basic arithmetic. Salamanders, newborn chicks and mongoose lemurs have all demonstrated counting skills in the lab.
What separates the humble fruit fly from the rest, however, is that the insect is the first example of a test subject gaining skills through direct evolution. Via, Daily Mail