Michigan Technological University
Department of Biological Sciences
Friday-February 8, 2013
MUB Ballroom B at 10:00am
The role of toolkit genes in the evolution of complex wing, thorax, and abdominal color patterns in Drosophila guttifera.
Animal color patterns such as zebra stripes, leopard spots, and the myriad variants of butterfly wing color patterns are known to play important ecological and physiological roles in the life of animals and are crucial for the survival of species. Scientists first tried to solve the secret of animal patterns with mathematical approaches to find models that could explain how these patterns developed. In 1952, Turing proposed the famous reaction-diffusion model in which a short-range acting activator molecule diffuses from a source to stimulate color production, while a long-range acting inhibitor molecule prevents pigmentation. Using the spectacularly ornamented fruit fly Drosophila guttifera, we developed a transgenic protocol to study the development and evolution of color patterns. We identified that the Wingless morphogen had evolved a new function in the D. guttifera lineage by activating the yellow gene on pre-existing structural landmarks on the wing, causing black melanin spots around sensory organs, tips of the veins, and crossveins. We are currently expanding this work by investigating if the melanin patterns on different body parts of D. guttifera evolved by the same mechanisms involving Wingless, or if they have independently evolved