Beer Smells Good to Attract Flies

Fly eating from a yeast colony. Image: Cell Reports, Christiaens et al.

The familiar smell of beer is due in part to aroma compounds produced by common brewer’s yeast. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports, have discovered why the yeast, formally known as S. cerevisiae, make that smell: the scent attracts fruit flies, which repay the yeast by dispersing their cells in the environment.

Yeast lacking a single aroma gene fail to produce their characteristic odor, and they don’t attract fruit flies either.

“Two seemingly unrelated species, yeasts and flies, have developed an intricate symbiosis based on smell,” said Kevin Verstrepen of KU Leuven and VIB in Belgium. “The flies can feed on the yeasts, and the yeasts benefit from the movement of the flies.”

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