Friday, August 26, 2005

Shoo fly

Our compost bin has been has been gathering kitchen scraps all summer. Soon we'll be putting it to sleep for the winter. When we return next year, we'll have lovely compost in which to plant my veggies.

In the meantime, the bin is a breeding ground for fruit flies. They are a bit of a nuisance when one opens the top of the bin, but it's hard to think too badly of them. Fruit flies have been faithful servants of science since they were adopted by T. H. Morgan in his important studies in genetics that began at Columbia University in the early years of this century. Since that time, much of what we know about mutation, speciation, and other genetic phenomena has been discovered with populations of fruit flies in nature and in the lab.

They are ideal research animals, small enough to breed in the lab in large numbers, but large enough to examine with only modest magnification. And they have a short life cycle, which means they can be bred through many generations during a typical graduate student's time of study.

So welcome, Drosophila, dainty "dew-lovers," to the leavings of our table. You have earned your repast.