Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award



Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Kristin Latham and Michael Baltzley

Honors Program Director

Gavin Keulks


Diverse organisms, including birds, sea turtles, lobsters, and sharks have been shown to use Earth-strength magnetic fields to navigate. We have examined whether the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has a directional preference and if this preference has genetic underpinnings. In order to answer these questions we designed a Y-maze in which each fly makes 10 sequential choices to go North or South. To breed a population of North-seeking flies, we recorded the distribution of flies exiting the maze and selected the Northern-most 20% to give rise to the next generation. We used a similar protocol to breed a population of South-seeking flies. Our data showed that wild-type Drosophila do not have a distinct innate preference for either North or South. Moreover, after 12 generations we did not produce a population of flies with a distinct directional preference. As a positive control we ran a similar experiment to look at phototaxis. Our data showed that flies exhibit positive phototaxis and after 12 generations of selective breeding we have produced a strain with a decreased phototaxic response. These experiments will be continued for 15 generations. Our findings will contribute to a better understanding of the magnetic orientation behavior of Drosophila.