Christen Mirth

Group Leader





Ph.D. in Zoology (2002), University of Cambridge, U.K.

Post Doctoral Associate (2003-2008): Dr. Lynn Riddiford and Dr. Jim Truman, University of Washington

Research Specialist (2008-2010): Dr Lynn Riddiford, Janelia Farm Research Campus-Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Until October 2015:

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência        

Rua da Quinta Grande, 6              

2780-156 Oeiras                               


email: christen(at)igc(dot)gulbenkian(dot)pt   

telephone: (351) 21 4464678

After November 2015:

School of Biological Sciences

Monash University

Melbourne, Australia

email: christen(dot)mirth(at)monash(dot)edu

Herboso L, Oliveira MM, Talamillo A, Pérez C, González M, Martín D, Sutherland JD, Shingleton AW, Mirth CK, & Barrio R*. (2015). The steroid hormone ecdysone promotes growth of imaginal discs in Drosophila melanogaster. Scientific Reports 5, 12383.

Rodrigues MA, Martins NE, Balancé LF, Broom LN, Dias AJS, Fernandes ASD, Rodrigues F, Sucena É, & Mirth CK*. (2015). Drosophila melanogaster larvae make nutritional choices that minimize developmental time. Journal of Insect Physiology 81, 69-80.

Carvalho MJA* & Mirth CK*. (2015). Coordinating morphology with behaviour during development: an integrative approach from a fly perspective. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3, 5.

Koyama T*, Rodrigues MA, Athanasiadis A, Shingleton AW, & Mirth CK*. (2014). Nutrition regulates body size through FoxO-Ultraspiracle mediated ecdysone biosynthesis. eLife 3, e03091.

Cheng C, Ko A, Chaieb L, Koyama T, Mirth CK, Smith WA, & Suzuki Y*. (2014). The POU factor Ventral veins lacking/Drifter modulates ecdysone and juvenile hormone signalling to influence the timing of metamorphosis. PLoS Genetics 10, e1004425.

Oliveira MM, Shingleton AW, & Mirth CK*. (2014). Coordination of tissue and whole body development at specific developmental milestones ensures robustness. PLoS Genetics 10, e1004408.

Mirth CK* & Shingleton AW*. (2014). Interacting to control size: the roles of juvenile hormone, insulin/target of rapamycin and ecdysone signalling in regulating body size in Drosophila. Communicative and Integrative Biology 7, e29240.

Mirth CK*, Tang HY, Makohon-Moore SC, Salhadar S, Gokhale RH, Warner RD, Koyama T, Riddiford LM, & Shingleton AW*. (2014). Juvenile hormone controls body size and perturbs insulin signaling in Drosophila. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. 111, 7018-7023.

Nijhout HJ*, Riddiford LM*, Mirth CK, Shingleton AW, Suzuki Y, & Callier V. (2014). The developmental control of size in insects. WIREs Developmental Biology 3, 113-134.

Koyama T, Mendes CC, & Mirth CK*. (2013). Mechanisms regulating nutrition-dependent developmental plasticity through organ-specific effects in insects. Frontiers in Physiology 4, 263.

Mirth CK* & Shingleton AW*. (2012). Integrating body and organ size in Drosophila: recent advances and outstanding problems. Frontiers in Experimental Endocrinology 3, 49.

Riddiford LM*, Truman JW, Mirth CK, & Shen, Y. (2010). A role for Juvenile Hormone in the prepupal development of Drosophila melanogaster. Development 137, 1117-1126.

Mirth CK*, Truman JW, & Riddiford LM. (2009). The Ecdysone Receptor controls the post-critical weight switch to nutrition-independent differentiation in Drosophila wing discs. Development 136, 2345-2353.

Shingleton AW*, Mirth CK, & Bates P. (2008). Developmental model of static allometry in holometabolous insects. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 275, 1875-1885.

Mirth CK & Riddiford LM*. (2007). Size assessment and growth control: how adult size is determined in insects. BioEssays 29, 344-355.

Mirth CK*, Truman JW, & Riddiford LM (2005). The role of the prothoracic gland in determining critical weight for metamorphosis in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Biology 15, 1796-1807.

Mirth CK*. (2005). Ecdysteroid control of metamorphosis in the differentiating adult leg structures of Drosophila melanogaster. Developmental Biology 278, 163-174.

Mirth CK* & ME Akam. (2002). Joint development in the Drosophila leg: cell movements and cell populations. Developmental Biology 246, 391-406.

Klingenberg CP*, Spence JR, & Mirth CK (2000). Introgressive hybridization between two species of water striders (Hemiptera: Gerridae: Limnoporus): geographic structure and temporal change of a hybrid zone. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 13, 756-765.

Science Outreach papers

Mirth CK. (2012). Size Control Mechanisms. A short article on body size regulation for the IGC´s web-based science outreach resource for high school teachers. (

Most organisms tightly regulate their body size; however, we understand very little about the developmental mechanisms controlling size. Specifically, we are interested in how larvae determine when they have reached the appropriate size to begin adult development.

We, and others, have found that the prothoracic gland (PG) regulates a size-dependent checkpoint for the cessation of growth in Drosophila melanogaster. This checkpoint, called critical weight, depends on ecdysone, the hormone synthesized by the PG. Larvae with enlarged PGs, resulting from upregulating insulin signalling in this tissue, reach critical weight earlier and at smaller sizes. Currently, our studies aim to identify how ecdysone interacts with both the nutrition pathways and with known patterning mechanisms to control size-dependent development. Furthermore, we are interested in how these mechanisms and those that regulate growth rates evolve to generate species of different sizes.

In our studies of larval foraging behaviour, we seek to discover the environmental cues that larvae use to make foraging decisions and to identify the neural circuits that allow these cues to be interpreted by the larval brain. Recently, we identified a switch in larval tolerance to the bitter flavour quinine that occurs at critical weight in D. melanogaster. We are working to identify the neuronal populations that increase quinine tolerance in post-critical weight larvae. We also examine how nutritional content affects the decisions larvae make when foraging (Figure 2). These studies will fuel future research exploring the range of cues larvae use to make foraging decisions.

    In addition, we are interested in how species-specific foraging strategies evolve. Currently, we are surveying the behavioural repertoire of foraging larvae from 46 species within the genus Drosophila. We find that larvae exhibit a similar repertoire of foraging behaviours; however, species vary in the frequencies of specific components of this repertoire. We aim to identify the genetic loci that determine these differences in foraging strategies.

Size Control

Foraging Behaviour


PG>insulin signalling


Figure 1

Figure 2

10% yeast, 10% sucrose

5% yeast, 5% sucrose

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