Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

In 2017 we celebrated five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Unusual Fly Mutations Week Swapping Legs
17 June 2013

Swapping Legs

You might have seen tiny fruit flies buzzing around your bananas on a summer day, but have you ever stopped to look more closely? Scientists have studied these little insects for more than a century, and they have revealed many important genes involved in human growth, health and disease. You’re unlikely to have spotted a fly like this in your fruit bowl though – it has an extra pair of legs where its antennae should be, as a result of a mutation in a gene called antennapedia (literally translated as “antenna feet”). There are several similar genes in humans known as HOX genes, that are responsible for organising parts of our body plan as we grow in the womb. Unusual fruit fly mutations like this have helped researchers to unravel the complex processes that shape our bodies, and discover common patterns and pathways across the whole animal kingdom.

Written by Kat Arney

  • Originally published under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY-SA 3.0, Toony)

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