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The conquest of a new habitat: a study of nutritional and sensory adaptations in Drosophila suzukii larvae


Animals need to feed to incorporate nutrients -amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids. Since feeding substrates contain varying concentrations of these nutrients, animals have in place peripheral chemosensory mechanisms to search for them, and internal nutrient sensing mechanisms to assess their needs. Additionally, species occupying different ecological niches have evolved to profit from feeding substrates with different nutritional composition. My goal is to understand the relationship between these nutrient sensing mechanisms and a species’ nutritional needs, in the context of its ecological niche and its evolutionary history. I propose to model this subject on a comparative study between the recent global pest species Drosophila suzukii and D. melanogaster. Although both are generalist species that feed on overripe fruits as adults, D. suzukii has conquered a new egg laying niche, the ripening fruit, which implies a new nutritional landscape for the developing larva. I will address this subject by integrating three levels of analysis. First, the nutritional composition of their environment, the host fruits, and how it is affected by larval activity. Second, larval metabolic parameters and the activity of nutrient sensitive signaling pathways. Third, the function of the the peripheral chemosensory system related to nutrient sensing. I will accomplish this by translating tools generated on the model species D. melanogaster for the study of physiology and metabolism to D. suzukii. Through this action I will apply an innovative approach to the study of nutrition that integrates its ecological, physiological, chemosensory and evolutionary aspects. I will generate knowledge on the biology of D. suzukii, important for the fight against the growing pest. Importantly, this project will restart my career in academia after an unintentional break and I will train in the new skills I need to become an independent group leader on this same research topic.

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Hofgartenstrasse 8
80539 Munchen
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 262 209,60