For apple maggots, the dating scene is simple -- flies only mate on a specific host fruit. Using new technology developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University researchers have demonstrated that this fact of fly life has resulted in the emergence of two distinct races of the pest in just 150 years.
In research published in the Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Web site Sept. 22, the scientists show that one mechanism by which these flies find their host plant is a preference for specific blends of fruit odors. The preference is both strong enough and sensitive enough that the two races of maggot no longer interbreed, the first step in the evolution of a new species. The discovery, the researchers say, opens up a possible new area of organic pest control.
The researchers at the Geneva Experiment Station, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, Ithaca, N.Y., are Charles Linn, Satoshi Nojima and Wendell Roelofs. Their collaborators are Jeffrey Feder from the University of Notre Dame and Stewart Berlocher from the University of Illinois.
Linda McCandless | Cornell News
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