Drosophila Melanogaster has proven a valuable genetic model organism due to the species’ rapid reproduction, low-maintenance, and extensive genetic documentation. However, the tedious chore of handling and manually phenotyping remains a limitation with regards to data collection. MAPLE: a Modular Automated Platform for Large-Scale Experiments provides a solution to this limitation.
MAPLE is a Drosophila-handing robot that boasts a modular design, allowing the platform to both automate diverse phenotyping assays and aid with lab chores (e.g., collecting virgin female flies). MAPLE permits a small-part manipulator, a USB digital camera, and a fly manipulator to work simultaneously over a platform of flies. Failsafe mechanisms allow users to leave MAPLE unattended without risking damage to MAPLE or the modules.
The physical platform integrates phenotyping and animal husbandry to allow end-to-end experimental protocols. MAPLE features a large, physically-open workspace for user convenience. The sides, top, and bottom are made of clear acrylic to allow optical phenotyping at all time points other than when the end-effector carriages are above the modules. Finally, the low cost and scalability allow large-scale experiments ($3500 vs hundreds of thousands for a “fly-flipping” robot).
MAPLE’s utility and versatility were demonstrated through the execution of two tasks: collection of virgin female flies, and a large-scale longitudinal measurement of fly social networks and behavior.