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  • Levine, Mike.
  • Videos

About this work


Documentary looking at the influence of the fruit fly (drosophila) on modern genetics. The fruit fly shares two thirds of our genes, is cheap and reproduces rapidly so is very popular amongst scientists. The19th century work of Thomas Hunt Morgan is revisited as he was one of the first to champion the fruit fly; he believed it would provide him with a key to work out how evolution took place but he needed a mutant fly to cross-breed with. By chance one day a white-eyed fly came into his lab, allowing him to test out theories of genetic inheritance. Gregor Mendel established a similar theory with his close study of pea plants. In the 1970s Nobel Prize winner Eric Wieschaus worked very closely with drosophila; he describes his work on fly embryos to locate compound genes. Professor Tim Tully used fruit flies to study memory in the 1980s, he believes they have an intelligent streak - using Pavlovian techniques he believes they have the same basic methods of association as humans. Herman Dierick is using them to understand agression - a fly wrestling match is shown in detail; and Paul Shaw is researching the function of sleep using drosophila. In 2000, the fruit fly became the first living creature to have its entire 13, 601 genes mapped out - this was how the similarity between fly and human genes was discovered. Geoffrey Duyk and George Scangos from Exelixis Incorporated are currently using fruit flies to test new medications.


UK : BBC 4, 2009.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL


Broadcast on 19 August, 2009.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Philip Smith. An Oxford Film and Television Production in association with Gedeon Programmes for BBC Television and Arte.

Copyright note




  • English

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