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Bioessays. 1998 Nov;20(11):949-54.

Speculations on the subject of alcohol dehydrogenase and its properties in Drosophila and other flies.

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Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, England.


The alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH) and their genes (Adh) of Drosophila have been much studied by population and evolutionary biologists. I attempt to put some of these studies into a broad adaptionist perspective, suggesting the co-evolution of this enzyme with the fleshy fruits of angiosperms and fermenting yeasts. I suggest that these events occurred at about the K/T boundary (65 million years ago) and that the typical Drosophila (as exemplified by D. melanogaster) evolved from flies unable to use fermenting substrates as breeding sites. I also hint that the ADH enzymes of other flies (e.g., the tephritid fruit flies) may have evolved independently of those of Drosophila, but from a common ancestral gene.

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