MRE Symonds, A Moussalli, MA Elgar (2009) The mode of evolution of sex pheromones in an ecological diverse genus of flies. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 97: 594-603.

What’s it about?

Similar to our previous papers on pheromone evolution in bark beetles and Drosophila, we examined patterns of evolution in Bactrocera fruit flies by mapping pheromone components onto a phylogeny for 19 species. We found enormous diversity across these species, and with one notable exception, great differences even between closely-related species, suggesting again that species-specific signals evolve through large changes at speciation events.

What’s the story behind it?

Interestingly this started as a collaboration with Tristram Wyatt, author of the excellent book on Pheromones and Animal Behaviour. He was the person who suggested Bactrocera as a group to work on, and also I think may have done some initial data collection, before withdrawing from the paper (not for any sinister reason, I should add). Initially we tried to do this analysis using a composite phylogeny collared together from various sources, but it was clear after a few bounces from journals that this would not cut it, so we got Adnan Moussalli involved to help construct a phylogeny based on published GenBank sequences.

Interesting factoid: The paper title originally mentioned the genus Bactrocera, but Mark Elgar persuaded me to remove it with the argument that we would more likely to get accepted if weren’t specific. Never quite sure if this is true or not, but we certainly did get accepted once I dropped it.


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