Monday, April 21, 2008

Transgender Fruit Flies

If you're not confident in your gender identity, then this news may make you very uncomfortable. Researchers at Oxford and Yale have discovered that they can switch a fruit fly's gender roles by optically activating and deactivating just a few of their brain cells. Like most species aside from certain sexually aggressive middle-aged women known as "cougars", the burden of seduction in fruit flies falls on the males. By vibrating their wings, they create a song which (depending on its catchiness and pop sensibility) will attract a female mate. But by flashing some lights at a female fruit fly's brain, scientists were able to reverse its gender identity, turning females into wing musicians and males into horny groupies. The implication here is that males and females share most of the same neurological wiring, and gender roles are simply governed by a few gatekeeper cells. While this is still early research, I'm hoping that one day scientists will be able to create a light gun which will make me feel more confident in that beautiful cocktail dress I stole from my wife's closet. More details here.

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