What can be learned from disability studies using insect models?

James R. Carey, University of California, Davis

Like humans, aging insects are at constant risk of becoming disabled as an outcome of disease, accidents, and normal wear-and-tear. Therefore the purpose of this paper is to summarize 7 years of impairment research on fruit flies in the laboratory and butterflies in the field. I will first present both previously-published and new data on a degenerative condition in medflies known as 'supine behavior', a syndrome in which older flies spend progressively longer intervals upside down. Next, I will report the results of studies on the effects on survival and reproduction of artificial impairment in fruit flies and the impairment patterns observed in a long-term study of free-ranging wild butterflies in Africa. Finally, I will describe my vision for developing a broad research framework to bring model insect systems to bear on questions concerning impairment and disability and to develop general principles that will inform research on human disability.

Presented in Session 16: Sex differences in health and survival: perspectives from humans and non-human species