The making of a pest: the evolution of a fruit-penetrating ovipositor in Drosophila suzukii and related species.

Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society

PubMedID: 24573846

Atallah J, Teixeira L, Salazar R, Zaragoza G, Kopp A. The making of a pest: the evolution of a fruit-penetrating ovipositor in Drosophila suzukii and related species. Proc Biol Sci. 2014;281(1781):20132840.
Evolutionary innovation can allow a species access to a new ecological niche, potentially reducing competition with closely related species. While the vast majority of Drosophila flies feed on rotting fruit and other decaying matter, and are harmless to human activity, Drosophila suzukii, which has a morphologically modified ovipositor, is capable of colonizing live fruit that is still in the process of ripening, causing massive agricultural damage. Here, we conducted the first comparative analysis of this species and its close relatives, analysing both ovipositor structure and fruit susceptibility. We found that the ovipositor of the species most closely related to D. suzukii, Drosophila subpulchrella, has a similar number of enlarged, evolutionarily derived bristles, but a notably different overall shape. Like D. suzukii, D. subpulchrella flies are capable of puncturing the skin of raspberries and cherries, but we found no evidence that they could penetrate the thicker skin of two varieties of grapes. More distantly related species, one of which has previously been mistaken for D. suzukii, have blunt ovipositors with small bristles. While they did not penetrate fruit skin in any of the assays, they readily colonized fruit interiors where the skin was broken. Our results suggest that considering evolutionary context may be beneficial to the management of invasive species.