Image_5_The PEDtracker: An Automatic Staging Approach for Drosophila melanogaster Larvae.TIF (274.47 kB)
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posted on 16.12.2020, 05:06 by Isabell Schumann, Tilman Triphan

The post-embryonal development of arthropod species, including crustaceans and insects, is characterized by ecdysis or molting. This process defines growth stages and is controlled by a conserved neuroendocrine system. Each molting event is divided in several critical time points, such as pre-molt, molt, and post-molt, and leaves the animals in a temporarily highly vulnerable state while their cuticle is re-hardening. The molting events occur in an immediate ecdysis sequence within a specific time window during the development. Each sub-stage takes only a short amount of time, which is generally in the order of minutes. To find these relatively short behavioral events, one needs to follow the entire post-embryonal development over several days. As the manual detection of the ecdysis sequence is time consuming and error prone, we designed a monitoring system to facilitate the continuous observation of the post-embryonal development of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Under constant environmental conditions we are able to observe the life cycle from the embryonic state to the adult, which takes about 10 days in this species. Specific processing algorithms developed and implemented in Fiji and R allow us to determine unique behavioral events on an individual level—including egg hatching, ecdysis and pupation. In addition, we measured growth rates and activity patterns for individual larvae. Our newly created RPackage PEDtracker can predict critical developmental events and thus offers the possibility to perform automated screens that identify changes in various aspects of larval development. In conclusion, the PEDtracker system presented in this study represents the basis for automated real-time staging and analysis not only for the arthropod development.

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