The Calliphoridae or blow flies are a family of insects that occupy diverse habitats and perform important ecological roles, particularly the decomposition of animal remains. Some Calliphoridae species are also important in the forensic sciences, in agriculture (e.g. as livestock pests) and in medicine (e.g. maggot therapy). Calliphoridae provide striking examples in support of the hypothesis that sex determination regulatory gene hierarchies evolve in the reverse order, with the gene at the top being the most recently added. Unlike the model fly Drosophila melanogaster, where sex is determined by the number of X chromosomes, in the Australian sheep blow fly (Lucilia cuprina) sex is determined by a Y-linked male-determining gene (M). A different regulatory system appears to operate in the hairy maggot blow fly (Chrysomya rufifacies) where the maternal genotype determines sex. It is hypothesized that females heterozygous for a dominant female-determining factor (F/f) produce only female offspring and homozygous f/f females produce only sons. The bottom of the regulatory hierarchy appears to be the same in D. melanogaster and L. cuprina, with sex-specific splicing of doublesex transcripts being controlled by the female-specific Transformer (TRA) protein. We discuss a model that has been proposed for how tra transcripts are sex-specifically spliced in calliphorids, which is very different from D. melanogaster.

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