Co-Evolution of Fruit Flies and Parasitic Wasps Occurred in just a Few Hundred Years!

Filed in Gather News Channel by on February 8, 2009 0 Comments

A press release from the National Science Foundation describes how genetic changes in fruit flies and wasps that are fruit fly parasites have been studied by a University of Notre Dame biologist and his colleagues from the University of Florida and Michigan State University.

The changes occurred via the introduction of apples to North America 400 years ago and resulted in the emergence of (1) a new species of fruit fly, and (2) a new species of wasp that is a fruit fly parasite.

“It’s a nice demonstration of how the initial speciation of one organism opens up an opportunity for another species in the ecosystem to speciate in kind,”…

Video is supplied along with the text, showing how the fruit flies “implant” eggs into apples.  The fruit flies started out as “hawthorn flies” that employed the small red fruit of the hawthorn trees as a place to mate and lay eggs.  This behavior continued for more than 250 years after the introduction of apples to North America, but some of the flies began to reproduce with the help of apples in the 1800s.  These apple-loving fruit flies evolved into a different species, and the wasps that fed on the fruit fly larvae also evolved into a new species.  There is no truth to the rumor that one of these groups of insects penned “Don’t Meet Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me.”

The process described is remarkably fast compared to what is typically thought of as the time for a species to adapt to a new environment, yet it happened for two species. This is an interesting lesson regarding the effects of environmental change on living organisms.


“(Lead scientist Jeff) Feder says the research is important because it provides insights into solving Darwin’s mystery of the origins of new species. ‘Clues can be found right before us as we sit on our deck chairs barbecuing and drinking pop. All we have to do is open our eyes and we can see new life forms coming into being in that scraggly old apple tree in our backyard.'”

See the link supplied above for more details.

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