Fruit flies may have more individuality and personality than we imagine.
And it might all be down to a bit of genetic shuffling in nerve cells that makes every fly brain unique, suggest Oxford University scientists.
Their new study has found that small genetic elements called 'transposons' are active in neurons in the fly brain. Transposons are also known as 'jumping genes', as these short scraps of DNA have the ability to move, cutting themselves out from one position in the genome and inserting themselves somewhere else.
The inherent randomness of the process is likely to make every fly brain unique, potentially providing behavioural individuality – or 'fly personality'. So says Professor Scott Waddell, who led the work at the University of Oxford Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour: 'We have known for some time that individual animals that are supposed to be genetically identical behave differently.