The use of Drosophila melanogaster comes with many experimental advantages, allowing for the elucidation of biological properties in animals.
Drosophila melanogaster, also known as the fruit fly, has a long and storied history in the field of biological research. Some of the earliest work was led by Thomas Hunt Morgan at Columbia University in the early 1900's; this research established many basic principles of heredity, including sex-linked inheritance, epistasis, multiple alleles, and gene mapping.
Fruit flies are used in research for many important reasons:
History: The use of Drosophila for over 100 years has allowed researchers to thoroughly uncover the morphological, genetic, and biochemical properties of the species.
Small genome size: The full Drosophila genome only features four chromosomes, and the total genome size is roughly 5% that of humans.
Similarities to human DNA: Approximately 60% of Drosophila genes have homologs in humans.
Established experimental systems: Due to the rich history of Drosophila research, many systems exist to manipulate gene expression and to visualize these changes, both externally (eye color, wing shape, etc.) and internally (GFP/fluorescent protein expression).
Short generation time: It takes 10-14 days on average, depending on temperature and other conditions, for a fly to develop from egg to adult.
Large numbers of offspring: The female fruit fly will lay roughly 750-1,500 eggs in her lifetime.
Easy storage: Flies are 6-7mm in size, allowing thousands to be raised simultaneously.
Research in the Kalderon lab centers on two fundamental biological systems that are common to both flies and humans: