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SPOT.COM Report Summary

Project ID: 615789
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: France

Mid-Term Report Summary - SPOT.COM (Evolution of a Drosophila wing pigmentation spot, a sexual communication system)

Most differences between species arise from genetic changes. Which genetic changes modify the anatomy or the behaviors of animal species, and how these changes transform species, is largely unknown. We are addressing this general question by studying the evolution of sex-specific morphological traits and their associated reproductive behaviors. Specifically, we are studying the evolution of wing pigmentation patterns in fruit flies and ladybird; and the evolution of egg laying behavior.
We are using cutting edge functional genomics approaches to identify and characterize all the genetic differences that distinguish species with different wing pigmentation patterns. Our goal is to understand how genes evolve novel functions by making new regulatory connections with other genes, and how these novel genetic connections modify the morphology of the species. Half way through the project, we have identified some genes, and some of the regulatory switches, involved in the making and the evolution of wing pigmentation patterns, and we are now testing their function by manipulating their activity.

We are also studying the evolution of egg laying behavior, in particular in Drosophila suzukii, an invasive pest species that target several soft-skinned fruits (cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and more...). We have found that several sensory modalities have changed in this species, including olfaction and gustation. We have generated functional tools (mutants and transgenic lines) to establish the contribution of olfaction in the specific egg laying behavior of Drosophila suzukii on ripe fruit. We are now exploring further the role of olfaction and gustation, in particular to identify the sensory receptors and sensory neurons involved in egg-laying behavior in D. suzukii.

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