Many baffled parents have wondered whether their teenagers would ever stop growing. The answer is obvious, but researchers have never really quite understood just how an organism determines when it has reached its optimal size and growth should cease.
Photo credit: Christen Mirth
A normal fruit fly in the pupa stage of development (left) lies next to one in which growth has been inhibited by an artificially enlarged prothoracic gland.
Now University of Washington biologists studying the physiology of Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, have discovered an organ that assesses the size of the juvenile and signals when it has reached a critical weight to begin metamorphosis into an adult.
The team, led by postdoctoral researcher Christen Mirth, found that the prothoracic gland, a major endocrine organ situated just in front of the brain, assesses the flys size as it grows during the larval stage. The gland then sends hormonal signals when it senses the fly has reached a size appropriate to enter adulthood.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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