A fruit fly walked into a bar and ...

T. Gamble

T. Gamble

I remember somewhere around junior high school studying genetics. All the studies seemed to revolve around the behavior of fruit flies. You would think once in a while they would look at butterflies, or maybe dung beetles or something. For whatever reason, it appears geneticists are infatuated with the lowly fruit fly.

So, I now learn that the University of California, at where else but San Francisco, has been studying the male fruit fly, his sexual appetite and its relationship to his alcohol consumption. Quite frankly, until the study, I had not been aware that fruit flies have drinking problems. Then again, they probably drink so much because of all the genetic scientist studying them all the time.

The lead researcher for the college study is Galit Shobet-Ophir and with a name like that, she might be a fruit fly for all I know. Galit Shobet-Ophir discovered that “the more a male fruit fly’s sexual advances are rejected, the more likely the fly will turn to alcohol for consolation.”

As I am sure you already know, there is really nothing much worse than a male fruit fly on a three-day bender. You can’t tell a drunk fruit fly a single thing and they’re always calling at three in the morning. I’m positive this research will lead to a new government program to rehabilitate these wayward fruit flies before they throw their lives away, all seven days’ worth for the average life span.

What really strikes me is that a fruit fly is much like the average American male. Just look at your average homeless street bum. He has rejection written all over his face and it’s a safe bet he hasn’t gotten lucky in quite some time. So, what does he do, but turn to alcohol?

The most amazing part of the study, however, involved decapitating female flies to determine if the male flies were drinking because the female fly rejected them or rather because they weren’t having sex. Presumably a headless female cannot reject the male’s advances, but apparently it can still function.

The study said, in what I consider to be 2012’s best quote of the year, “Males will court a headless female, but their attempts rarely end in sex.” It does, however, do away with needing to explain to the female why the male is in the bed with them the next morning.

See, fruit flies act just like human males. Go to any bar in America, wait until about 1 a.m. and you will see an entire group of men who not only are willing to court a headless female, but also probably willing to engage in lovemaking. In fact, on more than one occasion, I have witnessed courtships in which it might have been better if the female had been headless.

The study concluded by determining that rejected males have “lower courtship behavior the next time they encounter females.” It further determined that all this rejection “enhanced ethanol preference” which is a nice way of saying increased their drunken behavior. So, next time you see that drunk guy at the ball game strutting like a peacock, remember, he is simply involved in enhanced ethanol preference due to multiple female rejections.

It’s not his fault, it’s genetics.

Contact columnist T. Gamble at t@colliergamble.com.