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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.