Ever opened up your fridge and been bombarded with a stench from some sort of
food that has become rotten? I think we have all experienced this horrifyingly disgusting
event at least once in our lives. Well, just as we use that smell to tell us that our food is
unfit to be eaten, scientists have recently found that flies also have the ability to detect
rotten food in order to be able to determine which foods to avoid.
When a piece of fruit has gone bad and exudes a repulsive smell, which would
cause most humans to discard it without a second thought. However, the Vinegar Fly
feeds on the yeast that can be found on sugar-rich substrates like fermenting fruits.
Unfortunately for the flies, these very fruits also contain many microbes, which they must
somehow determine to be either helpful or harmful. Researchers have found out just how
they do so in a new study.
The new study has allowed researchers to identify which specific neural circuits
are involved in this process. According to their results, the fly is able to detect the toxic
molds and bacteria by sensing whether or not there is a compound known as geosmin is
present. Geosmin triggers the fly’s olfactory, or neural circuit, causing a chemical release
which warns it not to consume or lay eggs on that fruit.
Obviously this use of geosmin is important to the fly, but this new study also
shows us all how important it is for ALL living organisms to stay away from rotten
foods. Especially with those holiday leftovers piled up in the fridge, try to keep in mind all of the potentially harmful microbes infesting your foods the next time you pull out some
OnAir says: Rotten foods can also have a negative impact on indoor air quality. But what can help even the score? Plants! House plants do SO MUCH to clean up the indoor pollutants we don’t see–including the ones emitted by that 6-week-old squash in the back of the fridge.