Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Insects’ survival, mating decrease with age in wild, researchers discover


Researchers examine aging in wild insects for first time

Antler flies (Protopiophila litigata) on a moose antler with an observation grid drawn on the antler surface.
Credit: Russell Bonduriansky, U of T

Mating pair of antler flies (Protopiophila litigata) Credit: R. Bonduriansky

A unique insect has given researchers the opportunity to study aging in the wild for the first time.

"Aging - or senescence - has been seen under controlled conditions in the lab, but never before in insects living in their naturally evolved habitat," says U of T zoology doctoral candidate Russell Bonduriansky. "Our study of antler flies shows these animals do age in the wild."

Bonduriansky and co-researcher Chad Brassil, both of the evolutionary ecology group at U of T, studied male antler flies to see if there was aging - a term used to denote a deterioration of the body’s vital functions, not chronological time. The two zoologists examined the flies to see if their abilities to survive to the next day and to mate deteriorated with age. The study appears in the Nov. 28 issue of Nature.

"We found that the flies deteriorate over their lives. As they get chronologically older, their chances of dying by the next day increase," says Bonduriansky. "While their probability of death increased, their probability of mating decreased. A decrease in both survival and reproduction unambiguously demonstrates aging."

An important feature of the study was the flies’ natural environment, says Brassil. "When you study flies in the lab, they live for a long time because they don’t have any predators or risks. Eventually, however, they do start to deteriorate. Now we have shown that this deterioration also occurs in the wild."

In Ontario’s Algonquin Park, the researchers studied several hundred antler flies, an insect that breeds exclusively on the discarded antlers of moose and deer. The insects’ relatively small geographical domain enabled the team to mark and track the progress of individual flies throughout their lives. "We had a small number of moose antlers in the field so we knew we were looking at the whole system. We were able to follow the flies throughout their lives - a very rare occurrence in nature where insects characteristically cover a lot of ground," says Brassil.

To follow the flies, the researchers captured the 2-mm-long flies and hand-painted identification codes on their backs before releasing them. "You can actually see these codes from about 20 or 30 cm away, so it is possible to recognize individuals," says Bonduriansky. Over the course of 2 ½ months, the researchers followed the marked flies and created biographies for each individual, monitoring their life spans and mating success.

"Evolutionary theorists argue that it is very unlikely that we can ever actually reverse aging or stop it," says Bonduriansky. "But the unique ecology of the antler fly can at least help us to understand why we age."

Lanna Crucefix is an assistant news services officer with the department of public affairs.


Russell Bonduriansky, U of T Zoology, ph: (416) 946-7217; email:

Chad Brassil, U of T Zoology, ph: (416) 946-7217; email:

U of T Public Affairs, ph: (416) 978-0260; email:

Lanna Crucefix | University of Toronto
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>