Why do so many Nobel Prizes go to scientists working on fruit flies?

Illustration of Drosophila melanogaster (public domain).
Illustration of Drosophila melanogaster (public domain).

“As night fell, astronomer Jean Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan watched a plant’s leaves, symmetrically arranged side-by-side on a stem, clamp shut. It was 1729, and he was studying the dramatic nocturnal movement of Mimosa pudica. Strangely, he found that the plant behaved the same way even when it wasn’t exposed to natural cycles of light and dark, making his observation the first known example of a circadian rhythm that didn’t depend on external stimuli. Circadian rhythms are biological cycles that repeat daily, matching one full rotation of Earth. After this discovery in a weedy creeper, the planet would rotate tens of thousands more times before scientists studying the daily habits of a household insect exposed the mechanics of the biological clock.”

To continue reading, click here! This article is a revamped version of one I previously wrote for the March for Science’s blog with a new focus on the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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