Will Irradiation Produce Mutations in Fruit Flies?

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Author: Muriel Gerhard



High School

Difficulty of Project



$ 20 - $25

Safety Issues

Wear safety glasses, apron and plastic gloves.

Material Availability

Readily available from high school science labs. The fruit flies, Drosophila melanigaster, may be purchased from Carolina Biological Supply.

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

2 months.This includes xperimentation, collection, recording and analysis of data, summary of results and completion of bibliography.


To determine whether irradiation will produce mutations in fruit flies?

Materials and Equipment required

  • Vials of Drosophila melanagaster (fruit flies)
  • Agar
  • 10 lbs of bananas
  • A fork
  • Large measuring cup
  • Tea strainer
  • Water
  • Large magnifying glass
  • Small plastic spoons
  • 2 bowls
  • 4 glass bottles
  • Gauze
  • Paper toweling
  • A camel hair brush
  • Camera with zoom lens
  • A scale borrowed from the school science lab
  • Access to ultra violet radiation (2920 Angstrom units), hopefully provided and administered by your dentist or a local chemical lab


Background Information

On the information level, this experiment serves to acquaint students with information on the current research on the effects of irradiation on the genes of fruit flies, namely, does irradiation produce mutations? Students acquire knowledge of  the life cycle, the growth and reproduction of the fruit flies, the key physical  characteristics of these flies, how to feed and maintain them,  and the length of their life cycle which is short making them excellent candidates for  genetic experimentation. In addition, since a great deal of work has been done on this topic, students may access previous studies and the outcomes derived from these studies.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings.  They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.

Research Terms

  • Drosophila melanagaster
  • Genes
  • Chromosomes
  • Ultra violet radiation
  • Mutation
  • Recessive
  • Dominant
  • Law of Dominance
  • Law of Segregation
  • Law of Independent Assortment of Factors
  • Punnett Square
  • Sex Linkage

Research Questions

  • What are the characteristics of Drosophila melanagaster (fruit Flies)?
  • How long is the life and reproductive cycles of Drosophila?
  • How does one feed and maintain these fruit flies?
  • Has ultra violet light been used to produce mutations in other organisms and what were the results?
  • What kinds of research have been conducted on mutations in fruit flies and what were the results?

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

  • What is a control?  A control is the variable that is not changed in the experiment.
  • What purpose does a control serve? It is used to make comparisons as to what changed or possibly caused the change.
  • What are variables?  Variables are factors that can be changed in an experiment.
  • What is an independent variable? The independent variable is the one that is changed in the experiment.
  • What is a dependent variable? The dependent variable is the one that changes as a result of the change in the independent variable.
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