Flies really are the coolest model organism to study. Despite the fact they like to stowaway in your hair, there are a lot of reasons why Drosophila are exciting to study.
1. They are so colorful! The eye colors are truly beautiful to observe. When scientists are creating new mutants, sometimes the new mutant strain of flies can have a really unique eye color. I even found a bright hot pink-eyed fly once! Sadly, pinkie did not produce any offspring and I was unsuccessful in creating my own line of Victoria Secret-themed mutant flies. Check out this free poster of fruit fly eye colors you can download from my store. Many of the colors are close to red and look similar on a poster, but remember, when scientists are examining them both under the microscope, they are quite distinct!
2. Fruit fly scientists come up with the most creative names. Most of the time, scientists who study other organisms like S. cerevisiae (yeast) or M. musculus (mice) name genes names like Cdc20 or Pds5. Exciting… NOT.
When fruit fly geneticists discover a new mutation in a new gene, they examine the phenotype or the effects of the mutation. Then, they name the gene based on what the fly with the mutated allele looks like. Here is a list of fun fruit fly gene names. Can you guess what the mutant fly looks like? See if you can match them below and find the quiz answers on twitter!
1. ken and barbie
2. bag of marbles
4. Indy (which stands for “I’m not dead yet”)
5. jelly belly
8. swiss cheese
9. grim reaper
12. out cold
a. mutant fly dies after only 2 days (think South Park)
b. mutant fly has a lot of cell death
c. mutant fly becomes paralyzed when the temperature drops
d. mutant fly has tracheal tubes that don’t develop properly
e/f. mutant fly lives an extra long time (2 answers)
g. mutant fly has excess facial bristles near their eyes
h. mutant fly has holes in its brain
i. mutant fly does not develop a heart
j. mutant fly has ovaries full of round tumors
k. mutant fly does not develop exterior genitalia
l. mutant fly does not develop proper “stomach” or abdominal muscles
m. mutant fly has a strange attraction to alcohol
How did you do on the Drosophila mutant phenotype guessing game?
12-13 correct: Tweet: I’m a #drosophila mutant genius! @sciencemrslau
9-11 correct: Tweet: I’m a wildtype #drosophila @sciencemrslau
3. Although they are tiny, fruit flies have many of the same genes as humans. In fact, they have 75% of the genes that are known to cause human genetic disorders.
Here are a few articles about exciting studies where scientists are using fruit flies to study human health problems:
Fruit flies are being used to study the genes that affect insulin levels.
Fruit flies actually sleep! Scientists can use them to study genes that affect sleep.
Scientists can use fruit flies to identify possible cancer drugs.
What fascinates you about fruit flies? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on twitter!