They also took photographs and filmed outdoors so comparisons could be made between wing flash in direct sunlight and under a cloudy sky.
The females can manipulate how sunlight reflects off of their wings by changing how frequently they flap them up and down.
Researcher Dr Gerhard Gries, who led the study, said: 'Our study describes a new model of sexual communication in insects, which might be common to animals in general.'By modulating wing beat frequency, and thus light flash frequency, the flies effectively communicate to their peers their sex, age, and possibly even mating status.'Using video technology to capture and measure wing flash frequency we were able to show that male flies are attracted to specific flash frequencies and not the morphological characteristics of the female flies.'The researchers discovered that males are strongly attracted to a wing flash frequency of 178Hz, which is the typical flapping speed of a free flying young female.
Photographs showing how sunlight is reflected off of the female flies' iridescent wings and body.
The scientists found that males preferred the female with functional wings, which suggested that the flashing signal was enticing to the males.
Flies have enormous eyes and fast visual processing, which are thought to have evolved to match their advanced flight abilities.
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