Memories of a Fly; January 2004; Scientific American Mind; by Rapha¿l Hitier, Florian Petit and Thomas Pr¿at; 8 Page(s)
We watch the tiny fruit fly as it wriggles around in a wineglass - not exactly the brainy type. Yet Drosophila melanogaster, as it is known by its proper scientific name, has an impressive capacity for learning. We can train it, much like Pavlov's famous dogs, to react to certain stimuli. And when it comes to some tasks, such as choosing a mate, the fly has the memory of an elephant, so to speak; once it learns the scent of an unreceptive, mated female, it essentially "never forgets."
But this trait isn't the only reason scientists look to fruit flies for clues about how memories form in humans. Drosophila, along with such animals as the mouse and sea slug, offers convenience for research. Just slightly larger than an asterisk, the fruit fly is easy to breed and keep. It has a relatively uncomplicated genome with only four chromosome pairs; sequences of the insect's inherited genetic material were completely mapped in 2000.