Yeah? Count This *THWAK!*: Scientists Evolve Fruit Flies That Can Count (And It Only Took 40 Generations!)

July 17, 2012


A group of geneticists have successfully evolved a line of fruit flies that can count. Because that's just what we need, counting insects. How about evolving a fly that just drops dead when you yell, "DIE SCUM" at it? Because that would actually be useful. Also useful? Something that gets those last few drops of pee out of your dangle. "It's called shaking." But guys might think I'm playing with myself!

The research team, made up of geneticists from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and the University of California, 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, however none prepared themselves for a repeat of the shake since they could not discern a difference between two, three or four flashes. That is, until the key 40th generation of descendants were put to the test.

You know what scientists SHOULD be breeding? Dinosaurs. And they should be breeding them with me. That way...I dunno, hybrids and stuff. Survival of the species. Are any of you scientists buying this? I'm also willing to be a surrogate as long as, you know, we can do it the old fashioned way. *pointing at butt* Put a baby in here.

Thanks to EC and Andra, whose cats can't even count.

  • deepfreeze

    CAN YOU COUNT, SUCKAAAS? I say, the future is ours! If you! Can count!

  • Ed

    Did they cut up the first 39 generations and feed them to the next ones like flatworms?

  • BillGatesIsYourDaddy

    Fruit flies only have a life expectancy of about 1 month. It takes about 3 days for one to mature and start laying eggs. They probably wasted about 6 months on this. I would rather spend that time cultivating weed.

  • Hayley Prychun Rodgers

    Wow, world hunger, limited drinking water, pollution, cancer, sickness and limited fossil fuels and they spend time, money and research on fruit flies that can count. And people wonder why my first reaction to "I'm a scientist" is normally "Oh, and how do you waste time for a living?"

  • And if by identifying and discovering education-related things, they manage to help out millions of people suffering from learning disabilities?
    Try and look at the bigger picture.

  • Jandkas

    You are not the decider of how they spend their money. Why didn't you spend your computer money on donating to cancer research? I mean they are already researching on all of the things that you are talking about but they talk a bit more time. So stop being all so high and mighty your job probably also sucks and doesn't really do anything to help society.

  • Hayley Prychun Rodgers

    Nine times out of ten they are not " spend[ing] their money" they are spending tax payer dollars in the form of grants, so I think I have a right to say something. As for my job, I am a small business owner, mother of 2 who is homeschooling/using on-line charter and therefor also being part teacher. It make not make a difference to everyone, but it will effect at least 2 young men and all their posterity.

    As to you and Tal, if you can give me any real world aplication this may have for "millions of people suffering from learning disabilities" please pass it along and I would be willing to be proven wrong, but as I understand it, fly brains don't work the same as ours.

  • Bilbo

    Plenty of advancements in science, not just in the field of genetics, have been made by tinkering with totally unrelated things. That's how science works. You find out things in the hopes of finding out more things. Just because you lack the capacity to understand that, does not make it pointless.
    Stick to worrying about crunching numbers and balancing budgets, and leave outside-the-box thinking to the people with an actual talent for it.

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