Back when I was in AP Biology,
we had a lab experiment that involved breeding Drosophila melanogaster
for traits. After explaining the months-long fruit fly plague that had swept his classroom the last time he had tried doing the lab with real D. melanogaster
, our teacher showed us the web-based simulation that we would be using this year.
So, I've never actually spent much time around fruit flies that didn't involve swatting them. But that doesn't mean I don't know how important they are to geneticists! D. melanogaster
are well suited to the study of hereditary traits for a great number of reasons, including their fecundity (18 points in Scrabble
), short life cycle, and easily determined gender, not to mention that they are extremely easy and cheap to care for. They also have only four chromosomes (pictured above, because I wanted to find a relevant picture that didn't give me the willies).
Drosophila researchers are in an uproar, however, over a taxonomic change that may rename the species.