Re: [asa] New fruit fly threat in Southern California

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Sun Aug 02 2009 - 17:46:29 EDT

> I just read the following news item. Would you kindly get all the experts in evolutionary biology to solve this pending problem? However, they must solve the problem as evolutionary biologists not experimental biologists.  <

Obviously, to actually deal with the problem, you have to run the
experiment. However, evolutionary considerations can give us good
ideas about what could be good approaches (and bad ones).

For example, reproduction is essential for an organism's success.
Reproductive cues are therefore likely, from an evolutionary
perspective, to be both fairly species-specific and strongly
attractive to the species. Although testing to make sure no
non-target species are also attracted, use of artificial pheromones to
attract the flies is likely to be one of the best approaches; a
similar approach is to swam the area with infertile mutant males to
reduce the odds of successful mating. (Additionally, my
brother-in-law can get paid to fly planes dumping out flies.)
Evolution also helps if the details for this fly have not been studied
(potential serious invasives not yet established in Western countries
are often poorly known). If so, we can look at close relatives to get
a good idea of the likely pheromones, etc. to greatly speed up the
search for what works against this fly. Conversely, it will help
identify what harmless local species might be most at risk as
non-target casualties.

Another possibility would be to look for resistant crops. Those would
presumably be ones that evolved in contact with the pest species.
(However, the problem with the fly may merely be the fact that U.S.
consumers do not like maggots in their fruit, which would not be an
evolutionary threat to the plant.)

Another possible control method would be searching for
predators/parasites of the pest. However, this has often been badly
mangled in the past, causing more trouble and often not controlling
the target pest. A control organism actually from the fly's home that
affects them, rather than something that attacks more or less similar
things somewhere else, would be better. Parasites are able to
specialize much more tightly than the average predator (in part
reflecting relative size of predator/parasite to prey), so they will
generally be a better model. Again, evolutionary considerations help
to know what non-target species you ought to test first.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Sun Aug 2 17:47:18 2009

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