New paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B


A reversal in sensory processing accompanies ongoing ecological divergence and speciation in Rhagoletis pomonella.

Tait C, Kharva H, Schubert M, Kritsch D, Sombke A, Rybak J, Feder JL, Olsson SB. 2021. 
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 228. Published online 24 March 2021


Changes in behaviour often drive rapid adaptive evolution and speciation. However, the mechanistic basis for behavioural shifts is largely unknown. The tephritid fruit fly Rhagoletis pomonella is an example of ecological specialization and speciation in action via a recent host plant shift from hawthorn to apple. These flies primarily use specific odours to locate fruit, and because they mate only on or near host fruit, changes in odour preference for apples versus hawthorns translate directly to prezygotic reproductive isolation, initiating speciation. Using a variety of techniques, we found a reversal between apple and hawthorn flies in the sensory processing of key odours associated with host fruit preference at the first olfactory synapse, linking changes in the antennal lobe of the brain with ongoing ecological divergence. Indeed, changes to specific neural pathways of any sensory modality may be a broad mechanism for changes in animal behaviour, catalysing the genesis of new biodiversity.