Posts Tagged ‘fruit fly’
In the early 1900s, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Columbia University zoologist, was looking for an organism to test Charles Darwin’s theory in the laboratory. Morgan was critical of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. After learning of an easily-reproducible insect yielding hundreds of progeny every few weeks, Morgan thought that he had discovered a model by which to study evolution. Morgan was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for demonstrating that chromosomes act as the carriers of inheritance in 1936.
Of the lion’s share of laboratory research, Morgan’s fruit flies became one of the most popular study models of evolution. After surviving through an unknown number of laboratory experiments, however, fruit flies are still fruit flies. “We are due for a renaissance,” said Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a biologist at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri in an interview with Quanta Magazine science writer Emily Singer. “We have narrowed our focus to a handful of organisms that statistically are highly unlikely to encompass the gamut of biological activity on the planet.” The evolution industry is on a mission to find a new study model of evolution.
The fruit fly is celebrating 100 years of research. Charles W. Woodworth at the University of California, Berkley, at the turn of the twentieth century, was the first to use the fruit fly as model in the study of genetics. Today, Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, has become one of the most studied organisms in biological research, particularly in the field of genetics.
In 1910 following Woodworth’s footsteps, at Columbia University from the top floor of Schermerhorn Hall, now known as the Fly Room, Thomas Hunt Morgan confirmed and extended Gregor Mendel’s basic principles of genetics. A year later, Morgan published his findings in Science, establishing the foundation for the emerging neo-Darwinism movement.
Morgan, in the book entitled The Mechanism of Mendelian Inheritance (1915) demonstrated how mutations using radiation on two-winged fruit flies resulted in four-winged fruit flies. The four-winged fruit fly was widely heralded as the earliest evidence that the first evolutionary step to produce a new species was a mutation.
The question, however, centered on whether the mutated four-winged fruit fly was a new species or an unsustainable aberrational freek. By 1963 after decades of research, the question could be answered definitively. Ernst Mayr, Charles Darwin’s twentieth century Bulldog, viewed the mutated four-winged fruit flies as “such evident freaks that these monsters can be designated only as ‘hopeless.’ They are so utterly unbalanced that they would not have the slightest chance of escaping elimination.” Mutation is not the gateway to evolution.