Model organisms are animals (or plants, or fungi, or bacteria) that scientists have found convenient to use in the lab. Animals that are:
- easy and inexpensive to keep,
- eat cheap food,
- are small and hardy,
- have well-characterized mutations (for example, mutations that lead to certain disease symptoms) for genetic studies, and
- breed easily, with short generation times
In this module, we explore two model organisms that were used for modENCODE studies -- the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. Both organisms have contributed to fundamental discoveries on how animals develop from a single cell, how that cell knows which genes it should express, how the different cells in the body communicate with each other, and how the animal behaves in different situations. This knowledge has been vital to improving our understanding of human biology in health and disease.