From a casual conversation with Dr. Carmen Vivar, we were surprised to learn of her observations that wild Drosophila flies were excellent at spotting her glass of red wine; whereas when she would serve white wine, the flies would rarely appear. We were previously under the impression that flies would be attracted to the alcohol vapor, but clearly such a pronouncement was not able to distinguish between the two types of wine. A quick search in the literature revealed studies on the adaptions carried by populations of flies grown near wineries (see a historical view  by the pioneer of these investigations, Stephen W. McKechnie), whose observations were repeated by Spanish colleagues , while more recently attention is on Drosophila suzukii  , a pest of the grapes themselves. But, to our surprise, given the relationship of most Drosophilists we know of, with wine, we could identify no data on whether our (also known as) vinegar flies, had preference between vin rouge ou vin blanc.
Materials and Methods
Our grandmother & mother, respectively, recently arrived to Mexico City from Athens, via London with two half-empty bottles of wine. We used the remaining content (see Figure 1) to taste the preference of Drosophila melanogaster to these fine wines.
Figure 1. A Sauvignon Blanc or a Tempranillo?
The projeny of the cross  between Fer2LCH[21BGal4] & Fer1HCH[G188] was placed in the middle compartment of the behavioral chamber depicted in Figure 2. The white wine was placed on the left-end comparment, while the red wine was placed on the right-end compartment. The flies could direct themselves towards either compartment, through small windows on the walls delimiting the compartments.
Figure 2. Let the flies decide!
The experiment was repeated twice. The results are depicted in Figure 3. Gratifyingly, the results were sufficiently clear not to merit further repetitions and statistical comparisons. The reader is allowed to reach the obvious conclusion themselves.
Figure 3. Flies were left overnight to decide.
It would be important perhaps to test with different wines, prior to generalising the conclusions, but we prefer to rest on Dr. Vivar’s prior observations and consider the issue settled: Should the circumstances demand that you are not disturbed, select a good white. Should you be feeling lonely and would welcome the company of a fly, go for a red.
- McKechnie, S.W. & Geer, B.W. Microevolution in a wine cellar population: a historical perspective. Genetika (1993) 90: 201-215.
- Alonso-Morada, A.; Muñoz-Serrano, A.; Serradilla, J.M. & David J.R. Microspatial differentiation of Drosophila melanogaster populations in and around a wine cellar in Southern Spain. Génétique, sélection, évolution (1988) 20: 307-314.
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- Rosas-Arellano, A.; Vásquez-Procopio, J.; Gambis, A.; Blowes, L.M.; Steller, H.; Mollereau, B. & Missirlis F. Ferritin assembly in Drosophila melanogaster. International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2016) 17: 27.
Yola Cheel Missirlis-Martinez & Fanis Missirlis
Departamento de Fisiología, Biofísica y Neurociencias, Centro de Investagación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politecnico Nacional.
Figure 4. View from the Zacatenco campus of the Cinvestav. The Chiquihuite hill.