Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fly Is At Home On A Crab, With New Evolutionary Neighbors

Date:
April 14, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Scientists have rediscovered a fly living in the mouth of land crabs. One of the more bizarre choices of breeding substrates comes from Drosophila endobranchia. This species is one out of three known fruit flies that have found a home on (and inside) land-crabs. Although frequently mentioned in biology textbooks, the crab flies have somewhat surprisingly been neglected in active research since their description. The fly has actually not even been seen since its initial discovery in 1966.

Courting of Drosophila endobranchia flies on their host crab.
Credit: Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology/Stensmyr

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany, have rediscovered Drosophila endobranchia, a fly living in the mouth of land crabs. The members of Drosophilidae, a family consisting of about 3000 species, are often referred to as fruit flies although most of the members feed on microbes. As microbes can be found growing on a wide range of substrates, fruit flies can accordingly also be found in a multitude of habitats.

One of the more bizarre choices of breeding substrates comes from Drosophila endobranchia. This species is one out of three known fruit flies that have found a home on (and inside) land-crabs. Although frequently mentioned in biology textbooks, the crab flies have somewhat surprisingly been neglected in active research since their description. D. endobranchia has actually not even been seen since its initial discovery in 1966.

In January 2007, scientists from Bill Hansson's group at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Germany, managed to relocate these elusive flies on Grand Cayman in the Caribbean (the sole known home of this species), where small fragmented populations still persist in the few remaining patches of suitable habitats. Concomitant with the insects' re-exploration, a long-standing question regarding D. endobranchia's evolutionary position within the Drosophilidae, disputed since its discovery due to a conflicting set of morphological characteristics, was resolved, based on a new comprehensive molecular and morphological analysis.

Surprisingly, the Cayman crab flies are quite closely related to the other Caribbean crab fly, Drosophila carcinophila, suggesting that something in their shared ancestry has made these flies more suitable for this most unconventional lifestyle.

A well known species of the Drosophilidae family is the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, model organism for genetic studies since decades. There are also three members of the family, D. endobranchia, D. carcinophila, and Lissocephala powelli, which are known to fulfill all or parts of their life cycle on land crabs, and each of them in different areas of the globe. While Lissocephala powelli seems to be restricted to the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, the other two species appear at different locations of the Caribbean. D. endobranchia, the least described of the three, was last seen on the Cayman Islands in 1966. The phylogenetic position of this species, i.e. the place it occupies in the tree of life, has remained disputed.

Therefore, Marcus Stensmyr and colleagues decided to relocate this species in the Cayman Islands in order to re-define the phylogeny of this organism with current molecular techniques and shed light on the evolutionary history of this interesting trait.

A search for the Cayman crab flies in 2007 was successful, leading to the collection of 66 specimens. The phylogeny of this species was determined with the aid of molecular biology, which allowed the Max Planck researchers to place D. endobranchia within the canalinea species group, a little known Neotropical group of forest dwelling flies that belongs to the large repleta radiation that also includes D. carcinophila, the second Caribbean crab fly.

"It is intriguing that two species in the same lineage evolved the same odd choice of breeding substrate," says Marcus Stensmyr, "it makes us wonder which aspects of their shared ancestry allow them to survive and thrive in this most specialized environment."

Further reading: Flies' lives on a crab. Marcus C. Stensmyr, Bill S. Hansson. Current Biology 17, 743-746 (2007).

Journal reference: Stensmyr MC, Stieber R, Hansson BS (2008) The Cayman Crab Fly Revisited--Phylogeny and Biology of Drosophila endobranchia. PLoS One 3(4): e1942. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001942


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Fly Is At Home On A Crab, With New Evolutionary Neighbors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408202041.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, April 14). Fly Is At Home On A Crab, With New Evolutionary Neighbors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408202041.htm
Public Library of Science. "Fly Is At Home On A Crab, With New Evolutionary Neighbors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408202041.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins