Meeting Abstract

39.4  Saturday, Jan. 5  Wing shape characteristics exaggerated by RNA interference modulate aerobatic performance in fruit flies RAY, R.; HENNINGSSON, P.; NAKATA, T.; BOMPHREY, R.J.*; CRUK London Research Institute, United Kingdom; University of Oxford, United Kingdom; University of Oxford, United Kingdom; University of Oxford, United Kingdom

The diversity of insect wing morphology seen in nature reflects the time-integrated sum of evolutionary pressures. Extant designs represent a compromise of ecological factors including – but not necessarily dominated by – aerodynamic performance characteristics. Correlating wing design with flight performance usually involves crossing species boundaries and can, therefore, be confounded by phylogenetic history. Since biomechanical data sets can be technically challenging and time-consuming to obtain, implementing the comparative method is often unfeasible. One approach to this problem lies in the development of a standardized procedure for a single species that affords either discrete or continuous variation of morphological parameters that are expected, from aerodynamic theory, to play important roles in aerobatic capabilities. Aerial prowess may be crucial to individual fitness and has certainly been instrumental in the success of the insects as a class. Thus, the ability to modify experimentally wing shape alone is a powerful tool with which to investigate the underlying mechanisms of functional morphology. Here we use RNA interference to down-regulate the expression of a gene that determines wing shape in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). The resulting phenotypes differ markedly in wing tip curvature and aspect ratio. We used stereo photogrammetry to acquire three-dimensional free flight trajectories from the range of phenotypes, calculated flight performance metrics, and found them to be significantly correlated with the modified wing morphology.