A Day in the Life of a Flyentist

(That title sounded better in my head)

My day begins with a reminder that I should probably go to the gym more often (never knew three flights of steps could wind me so much).

Thus begins my entire day of staring at fruit flies. Yup, that’s about it.

To be more specific, I usually start off by checking all of the boxes of flies that were entrusted to me. This “checking” consists of me looking to see if any flies had eclosed (came out of their pupa) over night.

Stages of a fruit fly (credit: http://www.devbio.net/node/112)

If there are any, I bring out the CO2 needle (very maniacal) and gas out the flies so they’re nice and docile (no flies were harmed in the process – kind of). This allows me to move them around underneath a microscope to check if they are males or virgins very easily. I sort them into their respective vials and then onto the next vial of flies. It’s an endless cycle. However, I do sometimes see some surprising findings in my fruit fly hunts. (I apologize for the fuzzy pictures. I do admit though, it’s a bit difficult to take pictures through a microscope)

Picture I took in the lab. No idea what’s in the wing, but it’s quite creepy and alive.

Picture I took in the lab. Apparently sometimes during development, something goes wrong and water ends up in the wing.

Picture I took in the lab. I don’t know what happened.

Picture I took in the lab. Also don’t know what happened.

 I also take pupa off of some vials and put them into their own vials, solely for the purpose of making sure that the flies grow in isolation their entire lives. But of course, I only need males and particular males at that with specific markings. Any flies that don’t match up with what I want unfortunately take a trip down the funnel into the liquid death trap (still feel bad about this sometimes, but they do escape occasionally).

Recently, I have begun testing the isolated flies. This calls for prepping at 10 am (the moment I get into lab). I have a time limit because flies have their own active hours around 10-11 am and 5-6 pm (who knew? I sure didn’t). The prep consists of desperate sucking from my part (I’ve learned that I have no sucking power). I suck on some tubing in order to capture the fly, so I can transfer him or her into one of the wells of the mating chamber.

The fancy mating chamber I’m using! In this position, the males and females are separated from each other.

This is called air aspiration. After all the tedious work is completed, I move the mating chamber so that the males’ and the females’ wells line up with each other and allow them to interact (told you this mating chamber was fancy).

Here, the mating chamber has been moved so that the males and females can now interact with each other.

 Then I just record them and wait for them to court or not court. Some of them really just jump on top of each other.

By 5-6 pm, I’m either doing a last check on all the flies or I’m preparing for another test.

A bit tedious, but all in a day’s work I guess.

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