Common Fruit Fly Phenotypes

A phenotype is a characteristic that can be observed (for example, your eye and hair color are different phenotypes). Phenotypes are encoded in segments of DNA (your genetic material) by things called genes. Each gene has two parts (or two "alleles"), which is why we represent genetic traits with two letters (i.e. brown eyes might be Bb). Each allele causes a protein to be produced! These proteins are the reason things happen in your body and how phenotypes are actually produced.

The fly phenotypes shown below are all mutant phenotypes - meaning, they are different from a normal or wildtype fly. In a mutant fly, the reason we see incorrect phenotypes is because there is a mistake in the fly's DNA (and therefore its genes and alleles). A mistake in the code causes there to be a mistake in the proteins that are made! It's just like cooking - if there is a mistake in your recipe, the food isn't going to turn out like you expected. The same thing happens with proteins, but if proteins are the wrong shape or have the wrong function then bodies (both human and fly!) do not work correctly.C Check out the flies below to see what I mean!

You can think of wildtype flies as "normal" flies, or those without mutations. Wildtype fruit flies have red eyes, yellow-brown bodies, and straight wings.
Curly Mutant (CyO)
Dumpy Mutant (dp)
Being a "curly" mutant means you are a fly with curly wings. These flies can't actually use their wings to fly, and instead hop from place to place! (NOTE: the fly in this picture also has orange eyes). Being a "dumpy" mutant means the wings of the fly are short and truncated. Although in this fly only the wings are affected, flies with mutations in the "dumpy" protein can have short limbs as well. Image from
Ebony Mutant (e)
Yellow Mutant (y)
Flies can also have mutations in their body colors. One of those mutations is called "ebony", where flies appear darker in color (almost black). There are many different body colors that fruit flies can be besides ebony and wildtype, one of which is yellow. These flies look very similar to wildtype flies but are just a little bit lighter in color. Image from
White Eyed Mutant (w1118)
Tangerine Eyed Mutant
White eyed mutants are exactly that - white eyed! There are no problems with the way they see, they just lack the pigment that causes their eyes to be red Besides white and red, there are a variety of eye colors for fruit flies that arise via mutations, such as these tangerine eyed flies. This eye color is caused by two different genes - the gene for purple eyes and the gene for a color called cinnabar (both recessive traits). Together, these genes lead to a tangerine color!