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Main article: Animal testing
File:Drosophila melanogaster - front (aka).jpg

Most animal testing involves invertebrates, especially Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly, and Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode. These animals offer scientists many advantages over vertebrates, including their short life cycle, simple anatomy and the ease with which large numbers of individuals may be studied. Invertebrates are often cost-effective,[1] as thousands of flies or nematodes can be housed in a single room.

With the exception of some cephalopods, invertebrate species are not protected under most animal research legislation, and therefore the total number of invertebrates used remains unknown.

Main usesEdit

Animal testing

Main articles
Animal models Animal testing
Alternatives to animal testing
Testing on: invertebrates
frogs · primates
rabbits · rodents
Animal testing regulations
History of animal testing
History of model organisms
Laboratory animal sources
Pain and suffering in lab animals

Biomedical Research
Animal rights/Animal welfare
Animals (Scientific Procedures)
Great ape research ban

Controversial experiments
Cambridge University primates
Pit of despair
Silver Spring monkeys
Unnecessary Fuss

Animal testing · Animal rights
Animal welfare

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Research on invertebrates is the foundation for current understanding of the genetics of animal development. C. elegans is especially valuable as the precise lineage of all the organism's 959 somatic cells is known, giving a complete picture of how this organism goes from a single cell in a fertilized egg, to an adult animal.[2] The genome of this nematode has also been fully sequenced and any one of these genes can easily be inactivated through RNA interference, by feeding the worms antisense RNA.[3] A major success in the work on C. elegans was the discovery that particular cells are programmed to die during development, leading to the discovery that programmed cell death is an active process under genetic control.[4] The simple nervous system of this nematode allows the effects of genetics on the development of nerves to be studied in detail.[5] However, the lack of an adaptive immune system and the simplicity of its organs prevent C. elegans from being used in medical research such as vaccine development.[2]

The fly D. melanogaster is the most widely-used animal in genetic studies. This comes from the simplicity of breeding and housing the flies, which allows large numbers to be used in experiments. Molecular biology is relatively simple in these organisms and a huge variety of mutant and genetically-modified flies have been developed.[6] Fly genetics has been vital in the study of development, the cell cycle, behavior, and neuroscience. The similarities in the basic biochemistry of all animals allows flies to be used as simple systems to investigate the genetics of conditions such as heart disease and neurodegenerative disease.[7][8] However, like nematodes, D. melanogaster is not widely used in applied medical research, as the fly immune system differs greatly from that found in humans,[9] and diseases in flies can be very different from diseases in humans.[10]

Other uses of invertebrates include studies on social behavior.

See alsoEdit


  1. Andre, RG, RA Wirtz, and YT Das (1989). "Insect Models for Biomedical Research". In: Nonmammalian Animal Models for Biomedical Research, AD Woodhead (Editor), CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Schulenburg H, Kurz CL, Ewbank JJ (2004). Evolution of the innate immune system: the worm perspective. Immunol. Rev. 198: 36–58.
  3. Lee J, Nam S, Hwang SB, et al (2004). Functional genomic approaches using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system. J. Biochem. Mol. Biol. 37 (1): 107–13.
  4. McCarthy JV (2003). Apoptosis and development. Essays Biochem. 39: 11–24.
  5. Seifert M, Schmidt E, Baumeister R (2006). The genetics of synapse formation and function in Caenorhabditis elegans. Cell Tissue Res. 326 (2): 273–85.
  6. Dietzl G, Chen D, Schnorrer F, et al (2007). A genome-wide transgenic RNAi library for conditional gene inactivation in Drosophila. Nature 448 (7150): 151–6.
  7. Marsh JL, Thompson LM (2004). Can flies help humans treat neurodegenerative diseases?. Bioessays 26 (5): 485–96.
  8. Bier E, Bodmer R (2004). Drosophila, an emerging model for cardiac disease. Gene 342 (1): 1–11.
  9. Leclerc V, Reichhart JM (2004). The immune response of Drosophila melanogaster. Immunol. Rev. 198: 59–71.
  10. Mylonakis E, Aballay A (2005). Worms and flies as genetically tractable animal models to study host-pathogen interactions. Infect. Immun. 73 (7): 3833–41.

Further readingEdit


  • Lawrence PA. "The Making of a Fly: The Genetics of Animal Design." Blackwell Publishing Limited (March 1, 1992) ISBN 0-632-03048-8
  • Demerec M. "Biology of Drosophila" Macmillan Pub Co (January 2000) ISBN 0-02-843870-1
  • Hall, DH. "C. Elegans Atlas" Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (November 30, 2007) ISBN 0-87969-715-6


  • Goldstein LSB, (Ed) Fryberg EA. "Methods in Cell Biology: Drosophila Melanogaster : Practical Uses in Cell and Molecular Biology" Academic Press (January 1995) ISBN 0-12-564145-1
  • Epstein HF, (Ed), Shakes DC. "Methods in Cell Biology: Caenorhabditis Elegans : Modern Biological Analysis of an Organism" Academic Press (October 1995) ISBN 0-12-240545-5

External linksEdit

  • FlyBase Main Drosophila research database.
  • WormBase Main C. elegans research database.

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