Fruit flies get ‘hangry’ without food, study shows

Fruit flies get ‘hangry’ when deprived of food, a new study has shown.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and University of Oxford observed male fruit flies get more aggressive the longer they went without food.

But their ‘hanger’ only lasted to a certain point, as their combative behaviour plateaued after 24 hours, the experts said.

To carry out the experiment, researchers scanned vials of male fruit flies with different amounts of food inside to record the number of lunges and tussles they made towards one another.

Those unable to access the food chased and “fenced” one another more.

Dr Jen Perry, senior author of the study, of UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “We found that hungry male fruit flies display more hostility toward each other.

“They’re more likely to aggressively lunge at each other and to swat at each other with their legs (‘fencing’ behaviour), and they spend more time defending food patches.

“The hungrier they get, the more combativeness they display. In other words, just like humans, fruit flies get ‘hangry’.”

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The study suggested that food-deprived fruit flies could suffer from the so-called ‘desperado’ effect, where they engage in fights even when likely to lose.

This fighting carries the risk of physical damage and energy expenditure, they said.

But it could be a way of maximising productivity in environments where they have to fight for survival, Dr Danielle Edmunds added.

No flies died in the experiment, the results of which are published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

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