Fruit flies learn their body size once for an entire lifetime

phys.org | 8/7/2019 | Staff
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In order to orient themselves and survive in their environment, animals must develop a concept of their own body size. Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have shown that the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster develops a very stable long-term memory for its own body size and the reach of its extremities after it has hatched from the pupal case. The fruit fly acquires this memory through visual feedback obtained when walking, but in the first two hours after training the memory is still susceptible to the effects of stress and not yet firmly anchored. "Once the memory has consolidated, it appears from our observations that it remains intact for life," said Professor Roland Strauss of the Institute of Developmental Biology and Neurobiology at JGU. "The insects seem to have calibrated themselves for the rest of their lives." However, it is still puzzling why they are only able to access the acquired knowledge 12 hours after training. The researchers still don't know what happens in the brain in the interim.

The research group of Professor Roland Strauss uses Drosophila melanogaster to investigate memory retention and consolidation processes that are known to occur to some extent also in humans. Earlier studies have shown that the short-term memory of fruit flies declines with age and that a protein is involved in this process which is similar to that playing a role in humans.

Study - Tammo - Krause - Laura - Spindler

In the new study, Tammo Krause and Laura Spindler analyzed the body-size memory of Drosophila. Fruit flies are insects that undergo a complete metamorphosis. They undergo three larval stages, during which they grow. Finally, at the end of pupation, the mature fruit fly emerges. Due to Drosophila's hard exoskeleton, the body size can no longer change; it can vary however, as the actual size of a fly is determined by the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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