Secrets of animals' spots, stripes revealed

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London, April 8 (ANI): Scientists in the U.S. say they have unlocked the secret of how animals make spots, stripes and other colouring patterns.

For their study, the researchers examined how a species of fruit fly (Drosophila guttifera) ornaments itself with a complex pattern of 16 wing spots.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that morphogen - a protein present in embryonic tissue and encoded by a gene called Wingless - plays a significant role in the process.

Morphogen diffuses through tissue late in wing development and becomes active at physical landmarks such as the intersections of veins and cross veins on the wing. It triggers cells in those areas to produce pigment.

"The Wingless molecule is deployed in this species at specific points in time and in specific places-the places where the spots are going to be," study senior author Sean Carroll, a molecular biologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said.

With this knowledge, Carroll and his team found they could create 'custom flies' - ones with stripes instead of spots on the wings. They changed the decoration simply by inserting the Wingless gene into different parts of the fruit fly genome.

While this research involved fruit flies, the principles likely apply to many animals, from butterflies to boa constrictors, researchers said.

"This is animal colour patterning, how they are generated, and how they evolved," Carroll said.

The research appears in the journal Nature. (ANI)

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