Posted by: arrogantscientist | January 2, 2009

The Greatest Model Organism

Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies*, are by far the most commonly used and understood model organisms in genetics. Despite not looking very similar, we have probably learned more about humans by studying Drosophila than we have studying Homo sapiens.


This is a wild-type (Oregon R) adult female.

Drosophila are so useful because they are so genetically tractable. It is [relatively] easy to induce and characterise mutations wherever you want in the genome. Once made, it is possible to cross flies and track your mutations, even if they produce no visible phenotypes.

There are many mutations that cause various visible phenotypes in Drosophila, many which cause the fly to appear strikingly different from wildtype form. In the future, I will post about some of these mutations, but it is important to know what Drosophila are supposed to look like first (i.e as a product of natural evolution).

*Drosophila are actually vinegar flies



  1. While I appreciate the valuable insights gleaned from Drosophila, it’s difficult to make such a vague claim of “greatest” when you consider the genetic understanding of the sea urchin, or the contributions of Arabidopsis Thaliana…perhaps “one of the greatest” would be a more defensible statement.

    Disclaimer: I am only an undergraduate, and I don’t study Drosophila.

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