Image of the Day: Puppet Master

Researchers study the mechanistic effects of behavioral changes caused by parasites in fruit flies.

Sukanya Charuchandra
Aug 3, 2018
An E. muscae-infected fruit fly (D. melanogaster) undergoes end-of-life wing raising. 
C. ELYA ET AL. (2018)

The mechanisms behind behavioral changes effected by microbes on their hosts are difficult to study at the molecular level. Researchers recently infected fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) with a strain of the fungus Entomophthora muscae to study such changes, according to a study published July 26 in eLife

These lab-infected flies behaved in a manner similar to fruit flies infected in the wild by the pathogen—they lifted their wings to uncover their abdomens and allow the release of fungal spores. The researchers found that E. muscae likely uses the fly’s nervous system to control the insect’s behavior. 

C. Elya et al., “Robust manipulation of the behavior of Drosophila melanogaster by a fungal pathogen in the laboratory,” eLife, doi:10.7554/eLife.34414, 2018.