Wild African fruit flies offer clues to their modern-day domestic life

phys.org | 12/6/2018 | Staff
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The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is quite possibly the most studied organism on the planet. Fruit flies are also quite familiar residents in many of our kitchens, attracted as they are to the fruit bowl. But how do the flies live in the wild? Surprisingly little is known.

Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on December 6 on their studies of fruit flies living in their ancestral forests of Zimbabwe offer new clues into how the flies live in the wild. The story centers on the African marula fruit, which has a thick rind surrounding sugary pulp, similar to D. melanogaster's modern-day favorite of citrus. Their discoveries also help to explain how the fruit flies might first have been domesticated.

Flies - Kitchen - Fruit - Bowl - Ancestors

"The flies in your kitchen fruit bowl are the direct ancestors of a group of flies that lived on marula in a distant forest," says Marcus Stensmyr of Lund University in Sweden. "Some 10,000 years ago, these flies moved in with their human neighbors, and their offspring then colonized the world. That's pretty cool!"

Prior to the new study, D. melanogaster had never been observed from undisturbed wilderness. So, researchers led by Stensmyr and first author Suzan Mansourian set out to find the ancestral African home of this important model organism.

Traps - Flies - Forests - Southern-Central - Africa

Using traps, they managed to locate wild flies in forests of Southern-Central Africa. Traps places in the vicinity of marula fruit trees quickly filled up with fruit flies. Traps placed in other parts of the forest collected little to no Drosophila. The researchers also showed that the fruit flies preferred marula fruits over citrus, a well-known favorite of theirs in other parts of the world.

When in season, "the flies are solely found with a single host fruit, marula," Stensmyr says.

Fact - Researchers - D - Melanogaster - Parts

In fact, the researchers found that D. melanogaster from other parts of the world...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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