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My lab:

Drosophila, like the proverbial moth, are attracted to light: they show 'positive phototaxis'. However, it's been known for over a century that this behavior is drastically altered when the wings of the fly are clipped: the attractiveness of light is greatly reduced. In our first poster tomorrow morning (198.24, WW47), I'll be presenting data showing that this effect appears to be a general re-valuation of light/dark stimuli, such that dark becomes more attractive as light becomes less attractive more generally, and not only in phototaxis assays. We also show that this effect is reversible and does not depend on clipping the wings. Manipulating flight ability by other means creates the same effects.


So far, my favorite hypothesis is that this shift in preference is brought about by the same neurobiological mechanisms that also act right after the animals hatch from the pupal case and are still too soft for flight. These animals show similar behavioral responses towards light/dark stimuli. It's intriguing to speculate that these may be precisely the mechanisms hijacked by 'zombie' parasites which manipulate the behavior of their hosts. In this case, I'd guess these parasites modify biogenic amine levels to alter a wide array of behaviors by changing the valuation of stimuli. So maybe it would be a good idea to start playing around with these amines a bit and see if we find one that mimics wing clipping - or rescues the clipping effect...
Posted on Saturday 12 November 2011 - 15:52:07 comment: 0

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