Thursday, July 16, 2015

The great divide in how researchers manipulate fruit flies

How do you manipulate your Drosophila, Paint brush or watch maker's forceps? You Tell me!

I bet when you read "manipulate" you thought I meant genetic manipulation, eh?

So last night while I was "pushing flies" - collecting flies for a genetic cross (mating scheme), - I was switching back and forth between my two favorite instruments (paint brush with short hair and forceps) to move around anesthetized flies (sorting based on genotype, sex, etc). For some reason (even though I have been a fly pusher for 18 years) I started to think about whether the brush or forceps was more efficient. After all, I have sorted (at a rough guess) several hundred thousand flies (or more?) during this time. Small efficiencies could save huge amounts of time.

For me I generally use forceps when I am collecting small numbers of distinct individuals (based on genotype & sex) in a large pile on the anesthesia plate (a plate with a porous surface where we pump carbon dioxide through to knock out flies). I use the brush when it is many more individuals, and there are (relatively speaking) more of them, like for "virgin" collecting (collecting very young females who have not yet mated with a male, and so are not storing sperm).

So I wanted to know from fly peeps around the world; paint brush? forceps? other? Why this choice?