Researchers have uncovered the underlying genetics that make flies so good at flying

Flies have evolved excellent flying skills thanks to a set of complicated interactions between lots of different genes that influence muscle function, wing shape and nervous system development as well as the regulation of gene expression during development, according to their study.

“Fruit flies are colloquially named after their most recognizable ability: flight,” says lead author Adam Spierer, a postdoctoral researcher who earned his PhD from Brown University. “Yet until now, there wasn’t a systematic study working to uncover the genetics of flight in flies with modern genetic and computational tools.”

Spierer has conducted extensive research into ecology and the evolutionary biology – “One of the big questions in biology asks: How does genotype, or DNA, contribute to phenotype, or the traits we possess?” Spierer says. “Previously, it was thought that the summation of effects from many genes can add up to the end result. But other studies have done a good job of showing specific combinations of variants and genes can also have a large impact. Our work supports the role of both types of effects and interactions, and contributes to the broader debate within the field of quantitative genetics and complex traits.”

These flies rely on flying for vital tasks like finding food, courtship and dispersing to new areas. Despite it being incredibly important, scientists no little about the genetics underlying flight performance.

 

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