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A fruit fly maggot’s body is covered in eyes (and other fruit fly goodness)

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Maggots are covered by surprises — in the form of eyes.

Researches at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Center for Developmental Genetics were surprised to discover that nearly every segment of a fruit fly larva contains light-sensitive cells. The fly probably evolved this feature as a response to the need to avoid sunlight. The larvae must burrow deep into their chosen fruit, where they live off yeast. Too close to the fruit’s surface and not only do they run out of yeasty goodness, but they also get shriveled up by the sun and the elements.

That’s right. That means maggot asses have eyes. And this new knowledge has somehow left me absolutely horrified.

But that’s not the only recent piece of science news around fruit flies. Neuroscientists are using the full grown insect to learn astonishing things about how neural networks work.

From a recent PopSci post:

Ambitious researchers think they might be able to map the human brain in just five years, navigating the complex networks between neurons by using advanced images. An Austrian scientist has another idea: Work backward by manipulating neurons to figure out what they do. To accomplish this, Gero Miesenboeck and his grad students are engaging in optical mind control, implanting fruit flies with false memories and causing them to learn from mistakes they never made. They’re also continuing their pioneering research into flying decapitated fruit flies.

And the related TED talk below:

[img credit Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; (inset) Chun Han/UCSF via Science]

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