We have examined the origin of a set of precisely located sense organs in the notum and wing of Drosophila, in transformant flies where lacZ is expressed in the progenitor cells of the sense organs (the sensory mother cells) and in their progeny. Here we describe the temporal pattern of appearance and divisions of the sensory mother cells that will form the eleven macrochaetes and the two trichoid sensilla of the notum, and five campaniform sensilla on the wing blade. The complete pattern of sensory mother cells develops in a strict sequence that extends over most of the third larval instar and the first 10 h after puparium formation. The delay between the onset of lacZ expression and the first differentiative division ranges from 30 h, in the case of the earliest mother cells, to 2 h for the latest mother cells. The first division shows a preferential orientation which is also specific for each sensory mother cell. Up to this stage, there is no marked difference between the three types of mechanosensory organs.

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