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Wild African Drosophila melanogaster are seasonal specialists on marula fruits

Author:
  • Suzan Mansourian
  • Anders Enjin
  • Erling Jirle
  • Vedika Ramesh
  • Guillermo Rehermann
  • Paul G. Becher
  • John E. Pool
  • Marcus Stensmyr
Publishing year: 2018-12-17
Language: English
Pages: 3-3968
Publication/Series: Current Biology
Volume: 28
Issue: 24
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

Although the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster is
arguably the most studied organism on the planet,
fundamental aspects of this species’ natural ecology
have remained enigmatic [1]. We have here investigated
a wild population of D. melanogaster from a
mopane forest in Zimbabwe. We find that these flies
are closely associated with marula fruit (Sclerocarya
birrea) and propose that this seasonally abundant
and predominantly Southern African fruit is a key
ancestral host of D. melanogaster. Moreover, when
fruiting, marula is nearly exclusively used by
D. melanogaster, suggesting that these forest-dwelling
D. melanogaster are seasonal specialists, in a
similar manner to, e.g., Drosophila erecta on screw
pine cones [2]. We further demonstrate that the
main chemicals released by marula activate odorant
receptors that mediate species-specific host choice
(Or22a) [3, 4] and oviposition site selection (Or19a)
[5]. The Or22a-expressing neurons—ab3A—respond
strongly to the marula ester ethyl isovalerate, a volatile
rarely encountered in high amounts in other fruit.
We also show that Or22a differs among African populations
sampled from a wide range of habitats, in
line with a function associated with host fruit usage.
Flies from Southern Africa, most of which carry a
distinct allele at the Or22a/Or22b locus, have ab3A
neurons that are more sensitive to ethyl isovalerate
than, e.g., European flies. Finally, we discuss the
possibility that marula, which is also a culturally
and nutritionally important resource to humans,
may have helped the transition to commensalism in
D. melanogaster.

Keywords

  • Behavioral Sciences Biology
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics
  • The Fly
  • commensialism

Other

Published
  • ISSN: 1879-0445
Marcus Stensmyr
E-mail: marcus [dot] stensmyr [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer

Functional zoology

+46 46 222 37 87

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4

Research group

Animal Physiology

Projects

Drosophila Olfactory Neuroecology

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