Using knowledge of developmental biology and quantitative genetics to improve forensic entomology
Role of blow flies in disease epidemiology
What natural genetic variations cause local adaptation of body size and development time in flies?
How do these loci interact with the environment?
- Light cycle
- Other fly species
The Tarone laboratory is interested in factors that lead to local adaptations of fly development times and body sizes. These traits are influenced by numerous genetic and environmental factors. They are also ecologically important life history traits for any organism and are frequently found to be under differential selection across populations of numerous fly species. Accordingly, there are many applied and theoretical reasons for dissecting the causes of variation in these phenotypes in flies that influence human activities.
We are taking a two-pronged approach to tackling these problems. We take advantage of the numerous tools available in the Drosophila research community as well as its rich history in studying life history traits to develop first principles for understanding genetic causes of local adaptation. However, there are many other fly species that affect human society in a variety of ways. Blow flies, in particular, are important to medicine, agriculture, and forensic science research. Many species engage in myiasis (parasitism of live vertebrates). This behavior can have obvious negative effects on pets, livestock (Australia alone loses > $100 million a year to flystrike), and humans (in hospitals, nursing homes, and other "assisted living" situations). Often this behavior can lead to direct or indirect economic or emotional damages, some of which results in litigation. However, myiasis can also be beneficial when properly used for wound debridement (maggot therapy). Similarly, blow flies transmit numerous pathogenic bacteria, but also produce compounds with antibacterial and antibiofilm properties. Finally, as primary successional species on carrion, blow flies provide an ecological service in terrestrial ecosystems (decomposition). Since their colonization of and development on carrion is relatively predictable, it is possible to use knowledge of blow fly development to predict a postmortem interval in forensic science. Given these numerous interactions with people, our lab studies blow fly life history trait evolution as a means of mitigating the negative, and enhancing the positive, influences of blow flies on humanity.
People in the lab study our basic question from a variety of angles. Currently, there are projects that involved:
Genome-wide and targeted mapping of loci influencing Drosophila life history traits in numerous environments
Developing genomic tools for blow flies
Ecological interactions and coexistance of blow flies in the wild
Blow fly-microbe interactions and blow fly-microbe-parasitoid interactions
Nutritional effects on wild-type and mutant Drosophila and Lucilia
Effects of variation in genome size on life history trait evolution