Age-Related Changes in Pheromones Reduce Sexual Attractiveness in Fruit Flies


A study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology has looked at the effects of pheromones on sexual attractiveness and the aging process in Drosophila melanogaster; the common fruit fly.

The research team led by senior author Scott D. Pletcher of the University of Michigan, discovered firstly that it appeared that older flies were significantly less attractive than younger flies. This led to the discovery that the pheromones produced by the flies, called cuticular hydrocarbons, changed with age.

The team tested their theory in a special holding chamber, by adding a male into the chamber which contained two dead female flies (to prevent any chance of the behaviour of the females from affecting the male’s choice), one old female and one young. Using video they carefully studied the behaviour of the male fly. The results showed that the male was significantly more attracted to the young female and the same was discovered for female flies, showing that they too were attracted to younger males.

Further studies saw the removal of pheromones from young and old flies and reapplication of the young or old pheromones to blank flies. The result was that the male flies chose the females covered in the young pheromones.

Due to the short lifespan of 60-90 days of the fruit flies, they are useful tool in studying aging. This study has shown that “the pheromones produced at different ages affect sexual attractiveness differently” as noted by Tsung-Han Kuo, a graduate student at the University and first author of the study.

The applications of this study could provide an insight into whether there are connections between health and attractiveness. “This research indicates that the mechanisms important for aging also influence outward attractiveness” Pletcher says. With such knowledge researchers could study these potential connections in the hope that they will shed some light on whether a trait such as attractiveness can be an indicator of health in humans.

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Discussion1 Comment

  1. avatar

    So does age affect the pheromones a woman produces? I am 64, mildly attractive, good personality but don’t seem to attract the men I like, even though I might highly desire them. However, men I’m not interested in, seem to gravitate to me???

    What’s wrong?

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