Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award


Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project


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.