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Fly (Austin). 2012 Oct-Dec;6(4):284-9. doi: 10.4161/fly.21535. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Non-destructive species identification of Drosophila obscura and D. subobscura (Diptera) using near-infrared spectroscopy.

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Molecular Ecology Group, Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.


The vinegar flies Drosophila subobscura and D. obscura frequently serve as study organisms for evolutionary biology. Their high morphological similarity renders traditional species determination difficult, especially when living specimens for setting up laboratory populations need to be identified. Here we test the usefulness of cuticular chemical profiles collected via the non-invasive method near-infrared spectroscopy for discriminating live individuals of the two species. We find a classification success for wild-caught specimens of 85%. The species specificity of the chemical profiles persists in laboratory offspring (87-92% success). Thus, we conclude that the cuticular chemistry is genetically determined, despite changes in the cuticular fingerprints, which we interpret as due to laboratory adaptation, genetic drift and/or diet changes. However, because of these changes, laboratory-reared specimens should not be used to predict the species-membership of wild-caught individuals, and vice versa. Finally, we demonstrate that by applying an appropriate cut-off value for interpreting the prediction values, the classification success can be immensely improved (to up to 99%), albeit at the cost of excluding a considerable portion of specimens from identification.

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