Giant Chromosomes: Fruit Fly DNA and You

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Many of the genetic sequences found in the fruit fly genome are similar to those found in humans. This activity allows learners to stain DNA from fruit fly salivary glands and examine the DNA in tightly packed chromosomes under a microscope. This procedure is not technically challenging, but a certain level of manual dexterity and patience are required to complete the experiment. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • larval culture of Drosophila virilis
  • petri dish
  • tweezers
  • 0.7% saline solution
  • dissecting microscope
  • glass slides
  • glass cover slips
  • chromosome stain (2% aceto-orcein)
  • plastic droppers
  • pencil
  • paper towels
  • light microscope
  • prepared chromosome slides
  • dissecting needles


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Animals


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Limited free access



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