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Back in the last century when the molecular revolution took off, a lot of researchers decided to use banana fruit flies to study the genetics and “how-to” of development. Most people were obviously more interested in how that process is brought about in humans, but scientists had to start somewhere. Flies are easier for both ethical and practical reasons — flies are cheap to rear, have short life cycles (3 weeks or so), the eggs don’t scream because they have no nervous system (yet), and the adults are assiduous egg layers. One can get lots of eggs in a half hour timespan. Development from embryo to larva begins when an egg is sub-divided into a bunch of cells. For a fly, the first obvious signs of an embryonic form is a one cell layer lining the inner eggshell and yolk in the center. Once there are many cells, they move among each other, change shape, divide, or adhere to other cells or “decide” to stay away from others. In short, the cells talk, form allegiances, negotiate... read more

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