Exploring neuroecology of Drosophila virilis and Drosophila busckii

This project aims to study the olfactory ecology and to test the effect of rising temperatures on olfactory detection in two drosophilid fly species that have adapted to live in forest and agricultural niches. The working hypothesis of this project is that insect species adapted to environments that are more exposed to climatic variations, will be more affected by climate change compared to species living in comparatively protected niches. We will compare the neuroecology of Drosophila virilis (which is adapted to survive in forest ecosystems, using fermenting tree sap as host substrate) and Drosophila busckii (which uses fermenting vegetables as substrate) to Drosophila melanogaster (fermenting fruits as substrate) and thereby understanding the evolutionary shifts that enable the former two species to survive in wild conditions. We first aim to field collect natural host substrates of these species and identify chemical compounds emitted from them. Then, we aim to screen the antenna of the two species using gas chromatography-linked electrophysiology. This will give us the principle understanding of major evolutionary shifts that enable virilis and busckii to locate and survive on different hosts. Lastly, we will test how different factors such as change in temperature affect their behavior towards their natural host substrates.

Doctoral Researcher: Venkatesh Pal Mahadevan (MPI-CE)

Supervision: Dr. Bill S. Hansson (MPI-CE), Dr. Markus Knaden (MPI-CE), and Dr. Marcus Stensmyr (LU).  


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