When the genetically altered fruit fly was released into the observation chamber, it did what these breeders par excellence tend to do. It pursued a waiting virgin female. It gently tapped the girl with its leg, played her a song (using wings as instruments) and, only then, dared to lick her - all part of standard fruit fly seduction.In addition to uncertainty over whether a similarly simply genetic structure exists in humans, the scientists expressed further doubt that any amount of genetic therapy would encourge male human foreplay, elaborate or otherwise.
The observing scientist looked with disbelief at the show, for the suitor in this case was not a male, but a female that researchers had artificially endowed with a single male-type gene. . . .
The results are certain to prove influential in debates about whether genes or environment determine who we are, how we act and, especially, our sexual orientation, although it is not clear now if there is a similar master sexual gene for humans.
Still, experts said they were both awed and shocked by the findings. "The results are so clean and compelling, the whole field of the genetic roots of behavior is moved forward tremendously by this work," said Dr. Michael Weiss, chairman of the department of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University. "Hopefully this will take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it in the realm of science." . . .
When a normal male fruit fly is introduced to a virgin female, they almost immediately begin foreplay and then copulate for 20 minutes. In fact, Dr. Dickson and his co-author, Dr. Ebru Demir of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, specifically chose to look for the genetic basis of fly sexual behavior precisely because it seemed so strong and instinctive and, therefore, predictable. . . .
. . . But no one dreamed that simply activating the normally dormant male portion of the gene in a female fly could cause a genetic female to display the whole elaborate panoply of male fruit fly foreplay.
[Rimshot.] Thank you! I'll be here all week . . . try the Piccata.