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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Jun 11;93(12):6079-84.

Behavioral genetics of thermosensation and hygrosensation in Drosophila.

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  • 1Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, 91125, USA.


Whereas temperature and humidity are critical variables affecting physiology, behavior, and evolution, the genetic and neuronal underpinnings of thermosensation and hygrosensation remain poorly understood. We have initiated a behavioral-genetic investigation of these sensory systems in Drosophila. Behavioral tests are described for the rapid screening of mutants defective in thermosensation and hygrosensation. We demonstrate the strong responses of normal flies to temperature and humidity. Two mutants were found with defects in thermosensation, only one of which is also defective in hygrosensation, indicating that they involve different sensory mechanisms. Ablation experiments further separate these sensory systems by showing that thermoreceptors are housed in the third antennal segment, whereas hygroreceptors are located more distally in the antennal arista.

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