Fruit Flies in the News - The Classic Model Organism for Scientific Discovery or the Olive Inustry's Greatest Pest

On the heels of a less-than-flattering mention in the news, fruit flies are attracting attention once again.  Work of Australian scientists on the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and the common bacterial endosymbiont, Wolbachia, was published in Science on October 311.  An abstract of the article was available in CAS databases two days before publication.

D. melanogaster has a long, distinguished history in scientific research2.  A member of the Drosophilidae family, D. melanogaster was first used by Thomas Hunt Morgan in the early 1900's to study the mechanisms of heredity.  Morgan's 1933 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine stemmed from his discovery of the white-eyed fly mutation in D. melanogaster.  In 1995, Edward B. Lewis, Christiane Nsslein-Volhard, and Eric F. Wieschaus were given the same award for their research on "the genetic control of early embryonic development" in D. melanogaster2.

Since 1919, D. melanogaster has found its way into nearly 30,000 references in CAS databases.  It's no surprise that D. melanogaster is considered one of the most important model organisms in biology.

Did you know there is another family of flies whose members are referred to as "fruit flies"?  Bactrocera oleae, commonly known as the olive fruit fly, is a member of the Tephritidae family.  As its name suggests, the olive fruit fly has a close tie to the olive tree - its larvae feed exclusively on olive fruit and cause extensive damage to olive crops.  Historically, B. oleae has been a problem for olive growers in the Eastern Hemisphere, but in 1998, the pest was discovered in California3.  Since this discovery, B. oleae has become a significant financial threat to the state's olive industry.

You can learn about research on methods to control B. oleae, including important research on biologic pest control, in the CAS databases.  A sample from the 124 references containing the concept "Bactrocera oleae control" retrieved with SciFinder includes:

  • RAPD analysis in the parasitoid wasp Psyttalia concolor reveals Mediterranean population structure and provides SCAR markers (Karam, N.; Biol Control 2008)
  • A kaolin-based particle film for suppression of the olive fruit fly Bactrocera oleae Gmelin (Dip., Tephritidae) in olive groves (Saour, G.; J Appl Ent 2004)
  • Use of semiochemicals in monitoring and control of olive fruit flies (Jones, O.; Pestic Outlook 1998)

Contributed by
Peter S. Carlton, Ph.D.
CAS Communications

  1. Hedges, L.M.; Brownlie, J.C.; O'Neill, S.L.; Johnson, K.N. Wolbachia and Virus Protection in Insects. Science [Online] 2008, 322, 5902, (accessed Oct 31, 2008).
  2. (accessed Oct 30, 2008).
  3. Featured Creatures website of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (accessed Oct 30, 2008).

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