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G3 (Bethesda). 2015 Jan 2;5(3):317-27. doi: 10.1534/g3.114.013664.

The FlyCatwalk: a high-throughput feature-based sorting system for artificial selection in Drosophila.

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Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland SciTrackSs GmbH, Pfaffhausen, Switzerland.
Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland.
SciTrackSs GmbH, Pfaffhausen, Switzerland.
Institute of Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland


Experimental evolution is a powerful tool for investigating complex traits. Artificial selection can be applied for a specific trait and the resulting phenotypically divergent populations pool-sequenced to identify alleles that occur at substantially different frequencies in the extreme populations. To maximize the proportion of loci that are causal to the phenotype among all enriched loci, population size and number of replicates need to be high. These requirements have, in fact, limited evolution studies in higher organisms, where the time investment required for phenotyping is often prohibitive for large-scale studies. Animal size is a highly multigenic trait that remains poorly understood, and an experimental evolution approach may thus aid in gaining new insights into the genetic basis of this trait. To this end, we developed the FlyCatwalk, a fully automated, high-throughput system to sort live fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) based on morphometric traits. With the FlyCatwalk, we can detect gender and quantify body and wing morphology parameters at a four-old higher throughput compared with manual processing. The phenotyping results acquired using the FlyCatwalk correlate well with those obtained using the standard manual procedure. We demonstrate that an automated, high-throughput, feature-based sorting system is able to avoid previous limitations in population size and replicate numbers. Our approach can likewise be applied for a variety of traits and experimental settings that require high-throughput phenotyping.


Drosophila; artificial selection; automated phenotyping; population genetics; systems genetics

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