Enhanced flight performance by genetic manipulation of wing shape in Drosophila

Ray, R P and Nakata, T and Henningsson, P and Bomphrey, R J (2016) Enhanced flight performance by genetic manipulation of wing shape in Drosophila. Nature Communications, 7.

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Abstract

Insect wing shapes are remarkably diverse and the combination of shape and kinematics determines both aerial capabilities and power requirements. However, the contribution of any specific morphological feature to performance is not known. Using targeted RNA interference to modify wing shape far beyond the natural variation found within the population of a single species, we show a direct effect on flight performance that can be explained by physical modelling of the novel wing geometry. Our data show that altering the expression of a single gene can significantly enhance aerial agility and that the Drosophila wing shape is not, therefore, optimized for certain flight performance characteristics that are known to be important. Our technique points in a new direction for experiments on the evolution of performance specialities in animals.

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