The neural substrates that the fruitfly Drosophila uses to sense smell, taste and light share marked structural and functional similarities with ours, providing attractive models to dissect sensory stimulus processing. Here we focus on two of the remaining and less understood prime sensory modalities: graviception and hearing. We show that the fly has implemented both sensory modalities into a single system, Johnston's organ, which houses specialized clusters of mechanosensory neurons, each of which monitors specific movements of the antenna. Gravity- and sound-sensitive neurons differ in their response characteristics, and only the latter express the candidate mechanotransducer channel NompC. The two neural subsets also differ in their central projections, feeding into neural pathways that are reminiscent of the vestibular and auditory pathways in our brain. By establishing the Drosophila counterparts of these sensory systems, our findings provide the basis for a systematic functional and molecular dissection of how different mechanosensory stimuli are detected and processed.
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