A/Professor David Merritt
Evolutionary Developmental Biology
My major research program is an analysis of genes involved in Drosophila development, including early development of the nervous system and axonal pathfinding. Ultimately I am interested in how evolution has shaped the way insects develop. Drosophila melanogaster is a model organism for genetic studies and we can draw on the extensive genetic tools available in Drosophila to understand development, and then compare the process in related species. I use techniques such as light and confocal microscopy, immunostaining, and genetic approaches in this work. Current research projects include an investigation of the development of dermal glands in Drosophila.
Insect Physiology and Bioluminescence
Current research projects include an investigation of the regulation of bioluminescence output by the glow-worm Arachnocampa flava found in Australian caves and rainforests. The larvae of glowworms produce light from their malpighian tubules to attract prey to their sticky webs. We have carried out a phylogenetic study of Australia's glowworms and now our attention is focussing on the population genetics of cave vs rainforest populations and how they regulate their light output.
Maynard, A and Merritt, DJ (2013). Synchronization of circadian bioluminescence as a group-foraging strategy in cave glowworms. Integrative and Comparative Biology 53(1): 154-164.
Merritt DJ, Rodgers EM, Amir AF and Clarke AK (2012). Same temporal niche, opposite rhythmicity: two closely related bioluminescent insects with opposite bioluminesce propensity rhythms. Chronobiology International 29(10): 1336-1344
Kheyri, H. Cribb, B, Reinhard, J, Claudianos C, Merritt, DJ (2012). Novel actin rings within the secretory cells of honeybee royal jelly glands. Cytoskeleton 69:1032-1039.
Merritt DJ and Clarke AK (2011). Synchronized circadian bioluminescence in cave-dwelling Arachnocampa tasmaniensis (glowworms). J Biol Rhythms 26: 34-43.
Sutherland TD, Young J, Weisman S, Hayashi CY, Merritt DJ (2010). Insect silk: one name, many materials. Annual Review of Entomology 55: 171-188.