Drosophila is a genus of small flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae They are often called called fruit flies, vinegar flies or wine flies. Many species linger around overripe or rotting fruit.
There are many species in this genus, and the genus is split down into sub-genera. The adults may feed on nectar, and may lay their eggs on or near decaying fruit. The details differ greatly from species to species.
Several species of Drosophila (in particular, D. melanogaster) were used in genetics research. It is a common model organism in developmental biology. The genus has more than 1,500 species, and has varied appearance, behaviour, and breeding habitats. Other species which have been widely investigated include D. pseudoobscura (used by Dobzhansky in field research) and D. subobscura, used in the UK as a laboratory Drosophila.
Drosophila vary widely in their reproductive capacity. Those such as D. melanogaster that breed in large, scarce resources have ovaries that mature 10–20 eggs at a time, and can be laid together in one place. Others, which breed in common but less nutritious places (such as leaves), may only lay one egg each day.
The eggs have one or more respiratory filaments near the front end; the tips of these extend above the surface and allow oxygen to reach the embryo. Larvae feed not on vegetable matter but on the yeasts and microorganisms present on the decaying surface of leaves or fruits. Development time varies widely between species (between seven and more than 60 days) and depends on factors such as temperature, breeding substrate, and crowding.
Drosophila has a number of close relatives, and some may actually be within its genus.
- Lordiphosa is a genus which is very similar to Drosophila. Its origin seems to be in S.E. Asia, probably China or Sri Lanka.
- Scaptomyza is a genus which has most probably evolved from Drosophila on the Hawaiian islands. "The Hawaiian Drosophilidae are monophyletic". There are a large number of species (at least 270 have been described). This suggests the species evolved on some of the earlier islands in the Hawaiian chain which are no longer above water.
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- Kaneshiro K.Y; Gillespie R.G. & Carson, H.L. 1995. Chromosomes & male genitalia of Hawaiian Drosophila, in Evolution on a hot spot archipelago (eds Wagner W.L. & Funk V.A.) Smithsonian, p57. ISBN 1-56098-463-5
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