Human History of Fruit Flies
Or, "Stuff I learned
from a great little book by Brookes, Martin, 'Fly: an experimental life',
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001". (pages as noted)
- Q: When was the fruit fly first "officially"
- Q: What've they ever done for us?
- Q: OK, What is their relationship to
Q: When was the fruit fly first "officially"
A: The fruit fly was first studied academically in 1900 by Harvard Prof.
William Castle. (p.3)
Q: What've they ever done for us?
A: At Columbia U in 1909, a fruit fly spontaneously changes eye color.
This work eventually leads fruit flies to take the credit for being the
test subjects in unlocking genetic inheritance. (p.6)
Q: OK, What is their
relationship to modern genetics?
A: Thomas Hunt Morgan and his team at NY’s Columbia U bred billions
of fruit flies between 1910 and 1915, and established the basics of modern
genetics. (p.13) That is, he discovered one fly with white eyes, which
he then bred with his other red-eyed stock. He found that the number of
fruit flies to emerge with white eyes was roughly consistent with the
Mendelian theory of inherited traits. He also found that the white eyes
occurred much more frequently in males than in females, leading him to
theorize the relationship of inherited traits to gender. That is, in this
case the white-eye trait was carried on the X chromosome, and with their
XY pairing, males have only one "eye color instruction" (having
only one X) so more had white eyes. Females have two X chromosomes, and
since white was recessive and wouldn't show up if the other X was "red",
both chromosomes would need to carry the white-eye instruction for the
female to have white eyes. (p.39-40)
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