Todd A Schlenke

Research Interests

Dr. Schlenke's research program uses fruit flies in the genus Drosophila to understand the evolutionary genetics of host-parasite interactions. For example, his lab has developed several species of parasitic wasps, which are readily observed infecting Drosophila in nature and can be very specialized to particular host species, as model parasites. These wasps lay single eggs in Drosophila larvae and, once hatched, consume flies from the inside out. Flies mount cellular and behavioral defense responses against wasps, but wasps have adaptations for finding host fly larvae, suppressing host cellular immunity, and manipulating host behavior. The Schlenke lab uses a variety of "omics" tools to understand the molecular genetics of fly cellular immunity and wasp virulence, as well as patterns of host immunity and pathogen virulence coevolution across fly and wasp phylogenies. The Schlenke lab also studies the genetics and neurobiology of behaviors that flies use to avoid being infected by the wasps and to cure themselves once they are infected, including various self-medication behaviors.