Scientists have learned a great deal about biology from a handful of "model organisms" – animals with unique characteristics that make them excellent for laboratory research. This set features four arthropod model organisms: the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum, the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis, and the two-spotted cricket Gryllus bimaculatus.
These organisms have helped scientists understand many different scientific questions, from understanding how organisms develop and evolve, to understanding how the brain functions, or how cells communicate with each other to form different parts of the body. Many of the processes that have been discovered in model organisms have also helped us study and understand human biology and disease.
I designed this set to highlight these animals and teach people about their unique biology. For example, Drosophila research relies on careful genetics and controlled mating, so there are two designs: one each for a male and female fly. Drosophila also have a variety of different appearances, or "phenotypes", caused by mutations – one of the first mutations ever discovered was a "white-eyed" fly, so this model can be built with white eyes instead of red. Both the Drosophila and Tribolium models also have a model for their larvae, which have been used to study how genes impact development and behavior. The Parhyale model has an anatomically accurate number of its diverse limb types, one unique aspect of its biology. These limbs are also interchangeable, as this animal has been used to study body plan evolution. The Gryllus model has retractable wings and elytra, to highlight how this organism's wings have been studied to understand cell patterning.
I hope this set will give scientists, teachers, and others an opportunity to share and learn more about these interesting animals and be inspired by biological research.