How Tinder users can learn how to find companions from tiny blow flies

"What was really surprising was that we noticed that female blow flies were most attractive to males on sunny days."

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February 15, 2017 18:21
2 minute read.
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Close up of a man using mobile smart phone. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

 
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Israeli and other users of the dating smartphone app for finding suitable mates can learn a thing or two from the lowly bugs known as blow flies, or Calliphoridae, whose common name first appears in William Shakespeare’s plays Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Antony and Cleopatra.

The insects – whose eggs are usually scavengers of carrion and dung, which as adults are shiny with metallic coloring – have an elaborate sexual communication system to help them find the perfect mate by filtering out incompatible candidates. This system also helps them navigate surrounding environments.

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“We discovered that the immense processing speed of the blow flies’ photoreceptors in their large sexually dimorphic eyes played a critical role in their visual mate recognition system,” wrote biology researcher Gerhard Gries at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “They use light- flash frequency from their wings to communicate to their peers things like age, sex, and even mating status.”

The study, just published in the journal BioMed Central, found that young single female blow flies shared their mating profiles by reflecting light off their wings at a frequency of 178 hertz, or light flashes per second to attract young single male blow flies, which communicate at 212 hertz. Blow flies are able to screen for age and sex of prospective mates by filtering out flash frequencies.

Gries explained there are similarities between the blow flies’ mate recognition system and Tinder, the dating app that matches – in real-time and in their vicinity – some 10 million people a day around the world, including in Israel. Tinder users similarly screen for age and sex of prospective matches by using the application’s filtration system.

Michael Hrabar, a member of the university’s research team, said anyone using a dating app like Tinder could learn a thing or two from blow flies.

“Like blow flies, humans are really good at filtering information. This means creating a good dating profile shouldn’t be overlooked. Through a thoughtfully crafted profile you can attract potential partners through your interests, education and other attractive traits,” the researchers wrote.



“What was really surprising was that we noticed that female blow flies were most attractive to males on sunny days. On cloudy days, light flashes from the wings of flying females are absent, which explains the low mating propensity of these flies on cloudy days.”

The results from the study suggest that the light-flash frequency, rather than any morphological characteristics of female flies, is the mate signal.

“The next time you take a selfie for your dating profile, make sure you have good lighting. What we’ve learned from blow flies is that good lighting can go a long way in helping you find the partner you’ve been looking for,” they concluded.

The researchers in this study used a LED pulsing light at 178 light flashes per second to mimic the sexual communication signals sent by females. They found that they were able to attract males even in the absence of real female flies.

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