The Asian fruit fly Drosophila suzukii reached Europe and the United States about a decade ago. This invasive species ravages fruit crops, including strawberries and cherries, and there is currently no effective means of staving it off. Unlike other drosophilas, which lay eggs on rotting fruits, D. suzukii chooses ripe fruits, thereby accelerating their decomposition. Researchers from the Institut de biologie du développement de Marseille (CNRS/AMU) and LMU Munich recently discovered that D. suzukii has evolved greater sensitivity to the smell and taste of ripe fruit, in comparison to fermented fruit, and the ability to lay eggs in relatively firm fruit. By selectively inactivating the fly’s neurons and olfactory receptors, they demonstrated that the smell of fresh fruit promoted D. suzukii egg laying. The scientists are now trying to identify the molecule or molecules that elicit this response. This would then make it possible to develop bait or design molecules that could inhibit egg laying. The results of their work also offer insight on how instinctive behaviors like egg laying are altered in the course of evolution.

benjamin

D. suzukii fly on cherry.
The first observations of D. suzukii in France date to 2009. The fly attacks a wide variety of fruits, including cherries, strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, and figs. To lay its eggs, the female pierces the skin of the ripening fruit, which becomes vulnerable to contamination. Larvae later develop inside the fruit. Crop losses due to D. suzukii can reach as high as 80%.
Courtesy of Elora Gompel

Reference

Evolution of multiple sensory systems drives novel egg-laying behavior in the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii, Marianthi Karageorgi, Lasse B. Bräcker, Sébastien Lebreton, Caroline Minervino, Matthieu Cavey, K.P. Siju, Ilona C. Grunwald Kadow, Nicolas Gompel & Benjamin Prud’homme. Current Biology, 9 March 2017.

www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)30090-8

 

Researchers

Benjamin Prud’homme, CNRS senior researcher, working at the Institut de biologie du développement de Marseille (CNRS/AMU) / benjamin.prudhomme@univ-amu.fr / +33 (0)4 91 26 92 06 / +33 (0)6 03 44 21 57

Nicolas Gompel, professor at Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich), Chair of Evolutionary Ecology / gompel@bio.lmu.de / +49 89 218 074 202

 

CNRS Press officer

Véronique Etienne / veronique.etienne@cnrs-dir.fr / +33 (0)1 44 96 51 37