A Seacoast in Bohemia

The View from Musca
June 12, 2009, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Happening

Today I moved into one of the new lab spaces provided on the Elucian Islands by the Nature Publishing Group.  From my window, I can see Darwin’s Beagle and the smoke from a nearby volcano.  The volcano occasionally lights up.  Now and then a seagul flies through the lab.  Each of the lab buildings is named after a constellation:  Cepheus, Draco, Lyra, Musca, Orion.  Since Musca is one of the constellations of the Southern hemisphere, I have never seen it!  The SLURL is:  http://slurl.com/secondlife/Elucian%20Omega/216/17/28

However, since Musca is also the generic name for the house fly, and since I have a lovely view of Darwin’s Beagle from the lab window, I thought it would be appropriate to building something about the evolutionary genetics of flies — fruit flies in this case. 

Musca_2 In 2007, the genomes of 12 species of Drosophila were published (appropriately, in the journal Nature, providing a rich resource for understanding the genetics of speciation.  I haven’t fully worked out the exhibit yet, but it will include information about the genomes of the 12 species:  D. melanogaster, of course, and its close relatives, D. simulans and D. sechellia.  Other species from the melanogaster group are D. yakuba, D. erecta and D. ananassae.  Species outside the melanogaster group include D.  pseudoobscura, D. persimilis, D. willistoni, D. mojavensis, D. virilis, and D. grimshawi. 

Because genomic rearrangement is an important mechanism for speciation, I’ll also want to include syntenic comparisons, i.e. comparisons of similar chromosome blocks in the 12 species.  All Drosophila species have about the same chromosomal composition:  usually 5 long chromosome arms and a pair of tiny “dot” chromosomes.  The long arms can either be paired in some combination to form a large metacentric chromosome, or unpaired as medium acrocentric chromosomes.  There are also a few surprises, but I’ll save those for the exhibit.  Stop by Musca in a few weeks to see what is going on!