Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Lund University analyzed DNA from fruit fly specimens collected in Europe between the early 19th century and the 1930s. Surprisingly, flies from the early 1800s were more genetically similar to contemporary flies than those from the 1930s, revealing patterns of migration and genetic drift. The study uncovered genes showing signs of evolutionary pressure, aiding in the adaptation to different environments and challenges. Notably, a gene called Cyp6g1 emerged in the 1930s specimens, making flies resistant to the pesticide DDT introduced in the 1940s. Another gene, Ahcy, helped 19th-century flies adapt to cooler temperatures and shorter days. Furthermore, the ChKov1 gene, previously linked to insecticide resistance, was found to offer viral resistance, altering prior understandings.
I find it so interesting that analyzing the DNA of fruit flies from centuries-old specimens, as highlighted in this research article, holds so much significance in the field of genetics. Research on fruit flies is critical because it also provides valuable insights into genetic mechanisms across various species, including humans. As noted in the second article, the fruit fly is a critical model organism in both basic and medical research, with a rapid reproductive rate and deep genetic similarities to mammals. Studies over the decades have revealed that its genetic mechanisms, like the Pax6 gene responsible for eye formation, are conserved across species and its mutations can cause various eye disorders. Overall, research on fruit flies has provided scientists with valuable insights into human gene functions, birth defects, and even complex conditions like alcoholism and drug addiction.