Nicolas Gompel, postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology, uses a sweeping net to catch fruit flies in the University Housing community garden. Gompel researches the genes that drive differences in pigmentation in fruit flies (genus Drosophila), using flies caught in his apartment and around the University Housing community garden compost heap.
Photo by: Michael Forster Rothbart
This male fruit fly (Zaprionus vittiger) devoid of abdominal pigments illustrates the morphological diversity of abdominal pigmentation in Drosophilidae. Nicolas Gompel, postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology, researched the genes that drive differences in pigmentation in fruit flies (genus Drosophila), using this fly from a species stock center and other flies caught at his University Housing apartment and at the University Housing community garden compost heap.
Photo by: Nicolas Gompel
How vastly different animals arrive at the same body plan or pattern of ornamentation has long been a conundrum of developmental biology.
But now, thanks to the colorful derriere of a wild fruit fly, captured on a compost heap by a University of Wisconsin-Madison post-doctoral student, scientists have been able to document a rare example of molecular convergence, the process by which different animals use the same genes to repeatedly invent similar body patterns and structures.
Writing in the current issue (Aug. 21) of the journal Nature, a group led by Sean Carroll and Nicolas Gompel of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at UW-Madison, describes the genetic mechanisms that control the colors and patterns on fruit fly abdomens. The study suggests that the simple modulation of a transcription factor, a protein that can bind to DNA and influence its activity, may be responsible for governing the diversity of body color patterns among related animal species.
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