alexa Recent agricultural pest stems from one fly generation's big genetic shift, evolution study finds

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Recent agricultural pest stems from one fly generation's big genetic shift, evolution study finds

The study looked at the processes that cause a new species to emerge, which may threaten existing, economically important crops. Scientists think that strong environmental changes, such as a drastic change in seasonal weather, can rapidly "push" different sections of an organism's genome -- its genetic blueprint -- into changing. For the study, researchers focused on the U.S. fruit fly species Rhagoletis pomonella, or the apple maggot fly. Traditionally, the fly lays its eggs in the fruit of the Hawthorn tree, which is native to North America but not considered economically important because of the fruit's overripe taste. In the 1850s, a small group of these flies began laying their eggs in apples. "At some point the flies jumped to apples, with the adult flies evolving the ability to lay eggs in the fruit and the maggots the ability to consume the fruit," Ragland said. "To do that, regions of the genome had to change from one generation to the next. The result of these flies infesting apples is now a huge issue for the apple production industry because it has introduced a new agricultural pest through an evolutionary event."

 
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