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Drosophila Olfactory Neuroecology

Identification of neural circuits underlying innate olfactory-guided behaviors in the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster
The sense of smell is not only of pivotal importance to most animals - it also serves as a significant model system in biological research, in areas ranging from neuronal information processing to developmental biology.

In the past 15 years, great strides in our understanding of how the olfactory system is organized and operates have been made. Instrumental in these efforts has been work performed in the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. In fact, for no other complex organism do we have a similar level of in-depth understanding of the olfactory system’s physiological, molecular and anatomical organization.

A picture of a fruitfly

However, in spite of the wealth of information gathered, we still do not know the functional significance of the observed organization. How the fly’s olfactory system, or in fact any other olfactory system, is used to actually decode the chemical environment remains unknown. We are here trying to link ecologically relevant olfactory-guided behaviors to precise neural circuits, in order to unravel the logic by which the sense of smell decodes the chemical environment.

Recent papers from this project

Dweck HKM, Ebrahim SAM, Kromann S, Bown D, Hillbur Y, Sachse S, Hansson BS, Stensmyr MC (2013) Olfactory guided oviposition preference of the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster. Curr Biol. 23: 2472–2480.

Stensmyr MC, Dweck HKM, Farhan A, Ibba I, Strutz A, Mukunda L, Linz J, Grabe V, Steck K, Lavista-Llanos S, Wicher D, Sachse S, Knaden M, Becher PG, Seki Y, Hansson BS. (2012) A conserved dedicated olfactory circuit for detecting harmful microbes in Drosophila. Cell 151, 1345-1357.

Stökl J, Strutz A, Dafni A, Svatos A, Doubsky J, Knaden M, Sachse S, Hansson BS, Stensmyr MC (2010) A deceptive pollination system targeting drosophilids through olfactory mimicry of yeast. Curr Biol. 16(20): 1846-52.

An electron microscope image showing sensory hairs used for smell on the antenna of a fruitfly
Sensory hairs used for smell on the antenna of a fruitfly (CSIRO Science image)
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