Love Bugs: How Bacteria in Our Guts Influence Mate Selection

bugs mating beetles sex

Is mate choice determined by bugs in our gut?

The latest research from Israel is revealing some unexpected insights about attraction and partner selection. If sparks aren’t flying between you and a potential mate, could the problem may be as close as the bugs in your gut?

Right now the findings apply only to fruit flies, humble insects that because of their quick lifespans and genetic uniformity have taught humankind a thing or two about the inner magic of our bodies and our world. In this case, they helped Tel Aviv researchers test a new theory that basically says this: not only do we adapt to our environments, but so do the symbiotic bacteria living in our bodies, and our adaptations are actually intertwined as part of a larger biological milieu.

The gist of the study is as follows: Fruit flies were separated into two groups and fed different diets, one based on starch, the other on malt sugar. When the two groups were reintroduced, lo and behold, the fruit flies tended to prefer mates who shared similar nutritional backgrounds.  This held true for flies kept separated for a year, and also for only a few lifecycles.

In subsequent studies, the flies were given antibiotics to kill off the bacterial matchmaker – in this cased called Lactobacillus plantarum – in their guts, and mate preference became random.

But here’s the intriguing part:  when the isolated bacteria were put back into their gut, preferential mating behavior resumed. Starch-fed flies once again chose mates who were also raised on starch diets, and likewise for those who were sugar-fed.

The reason: Scientists explain that something about diet altered the flies pheromones.

:: Do-do Bird

More sexual health news:

The Ecology of Sustainable Love

Exposure to Toxins Permanently Alter Sperm, DNA, Offspring

Tinamarie is a regular contributor to You can follow her on @ModernLoveMuse and facebook. She blogs at

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