Friday, September 19, 2008

Fruit Flies and Community Influence

Initially, I believed that fruit flies, like any other readily used lab insect, were very simple beings. I thought that their only intentions while they lived were to eat and survive long enough to reproduce and pass on their genes. I never would have thought that fruit flies would have had any social behaviors at all within the species. I actually thought they're whole lives were just fixed, but I was certainly wrong.

Recent studies dealing with fruit flies consisted in the observation of a single fruit fly's behavior isolated from any other fruit flies and then its introduction to a group of fruit flies. Apparently not only the behavior of the fruit fly changed within the first day of group introduction, but also the physiology and, even more interestingly- gene expression. This reminded me of the situation of the House Sparrows that I learned about in my animal behavior class. In the case of the house sparrow, when a male is around other males, that male may be treated differently in accordance to the size of the black chest badge he bears. In being treated differently, the male sparrow may produce more testosterone (if his chest badge is on the 'larger' side of the population's badges) due
solely to an environmental cue.

One experiment done with the fruit flies consisted of observing flies similar at the genetic level in a group as opposed to flies variant at the genetic level. The results showed different chemical signals from the fruit flies in the genetically similar group than from the genetically different group. This experiment strongly supports the change in gene expression of a species due to an environmental/social cue.

Further observation of the fruit flies showed that the flies in the more genetically mixed groups mated and reproduced more than the fruit flies in the genetically similar groups. This gives more information about the sexual behavior of the fruit flies and could lead us to believe that the fruit flies may be interested in varying the diversity of their genes by mating with a partner of unalike features. In addition to the discovery of the increased sexual activity, the experiments performed displayed that the response of an individual male to fruit flies similar to himself depends on his neighbors- the other flies also present at the situation. The response, including chemical response (release of pheromones) given by that male fly was dependent on the peer's of the male fly, and therefore we can conclude that behavior is not only dependent on molecular signals, but also an element that contributes to the control of chemical signaling.

-Kiel Boutelle
-Bio 550 Section 1


At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You brought back the example from class and i thought it was a good comparison but it made me curious whether the fruit flies' behavior changed depending whether being around female or male fruit flies brought about a change in behavior, or if it did not matter. but over all that was vary interesting article.

Amanda Joyce

At 8:18 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It is really neat that you found a similar case in another animal. What effect does the difference in chemicals have? What kind of behavior does it cause, and how does that relate to being in a social environment as compared to being alone?

Cecelia Hunt

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Dan said...

It's shocking that genes can be expressed simply by an environmental queue. What attributes of the fly changes due to gene expression? Do the new changes in expression, and also physiology, increase success rate in any way?

-Dan Hong

At 12:11 AM, Blogger PWH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger PWH said...

An organisms genes affect how it interacts with the environment and the environment affects the gene expression. I'm sure that there are many of these feedback interaction in humans. How did the change in gene expression change the fly's behavior?

James Sullivan

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I like how you compare this a to the lesson we learned in class. What caused the gene in the fruit flies to change?

- David Huynh

At 9:11 PM, Blogger David said...

"Apparently not only the behavior of the fruit fly changed within the first day of group introduction, but also the physiology and, even more interestingly- gene expression."

Who would have thought that such small insects could have such complex social behaviors? Would you happen to know what exactly happens to the fruit flies as they are introduced to the groups? Besides the increase in sexually activity do they change in anyway? Like say, are they more aggressive? Do they conform themselves to the group?

Also I'm sure you know this by now, but font problems and the ending should be Kiel Boutelle
(1). I'm not really sure if pwh cares that much about that small detail though. Better safe than sorry right?

-David Byun

At 9:12 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Before I read this, I had the same idea about Fruit Flies as you did. This article made me realize that even Fruit flies are complex organisms on some scale. I wonder how rapid or quickly the biochemical changes occur considering the life span of fruit fly is already very little. And what would be the methods of testing the rate at which a fly matures biochemically, or would a biochemical assay be able to be done? Thank you for enlightening us, it's certainly sparked my interest further in Drosophila genetics.

Amanda Sceusa

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned that gene expressions in fruit flies changed. Did they change enough that you could possibly say initially different groups of fruit flies became the same species? or Could you still distinguish they are different?

Yi, Jeongsang

At 9:18 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It is indeed confounding that something that may seem as simple as an environmental cue could change the genetic make-up of a species. This would make sense for the species to be able to adapt to the newly introduced environment.Do you think that the size of the species has any correlation to the amount of change in the species in response of the environmental cue or is the environmental cue the key dictator of this?

Helen Thi

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked that the fact that you used the case of the house sparrow from class in your entry. It gave me, the reader, a better understand of what your entry was about. I really liked the connection you made. Anyway, I think it's quite fascinating to know that something so simple as being introduced to a new group can change so many aspects in an organism. One would assume that the effects would be minimal but this article and the House sparrow study tell a completely different story.

I noticed that one thing you didn't really mention in your entry was how did the change in environment affect the behavior of the fruit flies. Besides genotype changes, were there any behavioral changes as well?

Posted By: Debbie Theodat


At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The study of the fruit flies is very interesting and I love how you include what we studied in class with your blog. I think that the blog you wrote would be more interesting if there was more information about how the behavior of the fruit fly changed from being isolated verses being introducted to a community of flies. Overall this was very well written article.

Tenzing Y. Dundutsang

At 11:46 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Making the comparison between lecture and the paper is perfect. But how did the behaviors change? What changed about them?

-Posted By: Heather Scott

At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Odmir Rodrigues said...

The fruitfly behavior is a great topic and it is very hot right now regarding science, but I think You should explain more regarding pheromone stimulus because they must be present to initiate abnormal behavior and it might explain the reason why we find bisexual flies

Odmir Rodrigues


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