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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 30;100(20):11490-3. Epub 2003 Sep 22.

Fruit odor discrimination and sympatric host race formation in Rhagoletis.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, New York State Agricultural Experimental Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456, USA.


Rhagoletis pomonella is a model for incipient sympatric speciation (divergence without geographic isolation) by host-plant shifts. Here, we show that historically derived apple- and ancestral hawthorn-infesting host races of the fly use fruit odor as a key olfactory cue to help distinguish between their respective plants. In flight-tunnel assays and field tests, apple and hawthorn flies preferentially oriented to, and were captured with, chemical blends of their natal fruit volatiles. Because R. pomonella rendezvous on or near the unabscised fruit of their hosts to mate, the behavioral preference for apple vs. hawthorn fruit odor translates directly into premating reproductive isolation between the fly races. We have therefore identified a key and recently evolved (<150 years) mechanism responsible for host choice in R. pomonella bearing directly on sympatric host race formation and speciation.

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