Monthly Archives: December 2011

The humble fruit fly is about 2mm long, likes bananas, sings to its mate, and normally ill considered or ignored by humans. Few people know that this tiny fly has revealed more about us than any other animal. Malta Cafe Scientifique will be hosting a public discussion by Dr Edward Duca entitled ‘Flies, Sex and Lies’ at 7.15pm Thursday 8th December, Music Room, St. James Cavalier.

The fly eye

Dr Edward Duca will start off with a story: the life of a fruit fly. How it goes from birth to adolescence, then like the butterfly, forms a structure around itself to develop into the adult. Unlike the butterfly, a rather ugly fly emerges instead of technicolor wonder. Once grown up the male fly needs to dance, sing, and woo females any way it can to produce children. How the fly develops has taught us humans how we develop, and what happens when things go wrong: the specter of genetic disease.

Pharmaceutical companies study the effects of new medicines on the fruit fly. They test them on fruit flies that have been changed slightly to show diseases like obesity, motor neuron disease that Stephen Hawking and Mao Zedong suffered from, and brain degenerating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. These models let pharmaceutical companies test new drugs quickly and cheaply before trying them in mice (followed by humans). They also let scientists find out why these diseases develop, hoping that they are translated into cures for human disease.


The fruit fly might be tiny, but it has been a treasure trove of discovery.

Fly fat cells with fat stained green and DNA blue

Fly Fat


‘Flies, sex and lies’ will be held at the Music Room, St. James Cavalier, at 7.15pm, Thursday 8th December by Malta Cafe Scientifique and supported by The Malta Chamber of Scientists. The talk will be given by Dr. Edward Duca, followed by an open discussion. Email or find us on Facebook for further information. Entrance is free and a free drink and nibbles will be provided to all attending. No special science background is required.

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