Although larvae of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster possess small eyes and tiny brains, they show a surprisingly diverse array of interesting responses to visual stimuli. Light perception is mediated by photoreceptor neurons in the eye. These neurons project into the larval optic neuropil, where the visual information is transmitted to downstream neurons. How visual stimuli control behavior is still not fully understood. I use fruit fly larvae as a model to investigate how different aspects of visual information are processed in neuronal circuits and how they mediate sophisticated and stereotypic motor outputs. Combining genetic manipulations with behavioural paradigms, I am assessing the neuronal basis of navigation.
At the moment, I am also highly interested in another interesting behavioral capacity of larvae. Larvae spent most time of their life burrowed in a food source. Feeding to grow is their ultimate goal. Once they reach a threshold body size, they show a dramatic behavioral switch. Right before pupation they stop feeding and leave the moisty, smelly and dark food source, in order to find appropriate locations to become a pupa. Which larval preference is changing and how the behavioral switch is performed, remains unknown. I am focusing on how larvae and their sophisticated neuronal network are able to perform multisensory integration and this dramatic behavioral switch.
Tim-Henning Humberg and Simon G. Sprecher (2017) Age- and Wavelength-Dependency of Drosophila Larval Phototaxis and Behavioral Responses to Natural Lighting Conditions. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 11:66. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00066
F. Javier Bernardo-Garcia, Tim-Henning Humberg, Cornelia Fritsch & Simon G. Sprecher (2017) Successive requirement of Glass and Hazy for photoreceptor specification and maintenance in Drosophila. Fly. 11:2, 112-120. doi: 10.1080/19336934.2016.1244591