Research Matters

Research Matters

Fruit Fly Courtship

An undergraduate researcher has conducted a breakthrough study of the mating habits of a unique fruit fly species, Drosohila nebulosa. The aspiring doctor says the fruit flies are particularly important to human medicine, since they share much of our genetic code.

Aired April 19, 2009

2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3


Study of fruit fly mating earns an undergraduate researcher a ticket to medical school. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters.

As Anne Vezeau graduates KU with dual Bachelor's degrees in biology and Spanish, she'll conclude a stellar undergraduate career marked by a passion for research. Indeed, her work to shed light on fruit fly mating has borne results significant enough to be submitted to a major journal of biology.

"They're a good model species. And reproduce quickly. And their organ systems and are especially applicable in human medicine. My first big project that I started work on last year just gives us a look sexual selection has come about in the world or if sexual selection even exists.

The Drosohila nebulosa fruit fly is particularly interesting to science because it mates differently than other fruit flies.

"This one species in particular that I was looking is in a species group that specifically doesn't have song. And in an effort to figure out what exactly were the driving forces in their mating, we wanted to explore other sensory modalities that might be important in that courtship, including vision and olfaction. Those are specifically what I looked at."

Studying with Jennifer Gleason, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Vezeau honed her skill at measuring and observing natural phenomena. Vezeau showed that female fruit flies had to smell to mate, although males did not, and that vision is important for the flies' mating. Her aptitude for research should benefit the aspiring doctor as she enters the KU School of Medicine this summer.

"It's dedication, dedication, dedication. What my mom told me when I came to KU was, 'Your job right now is to go to school - and you work your butt off at it.' So I've tried to treat my education as a career, and tried not to say, 'I can skip my classes' or 'I don't want to go into lab today.' It's seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and not giving up."

For more about the mating of fruit flies, log on to Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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