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Tiny mutation improves a fruit fly mating song

Researchers have found that a small change in a fruit fly gene affects the frequency at which they sing to their mates, Ars Technica reports. The gene, called “slowpoke,” controls neuron activity in fruit fly brains—it’s so essential to life that embryos die if born without it. As the researchers report in Nature, a minute section of that gene mutated by jumping to a new location. But instead of having a lethal effect (as many mutations of essential genes do), it simply made the flies better “musicians” by allowing them to buzz and chirp with their wings at a higher frequency than those who lacked the mutation—a desirable trait in the world of fruit fly courtship.