Population genetics of Ceratitis capitata in South Africa: implications for dispersal and pest management

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54281. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054281. Epub 2013 Jan 16.


The invasive Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly), Ceratitis capitata, is one of the major agricultural and economical pests globally. Understanding invasion risk and mitigation of medfly in agricultural landscapes requires knowledge of its population structure and dispersal patterns. Here, estimates of dispersal ability are provided in medfly from South Africa at three spatial scales using molecular approaches. Individuals were genotyped at 11 polymorphic microsatellite loci and a subset of individuals were also sequenced for the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene. Our results show that South African medfly populations are generally characterized by high levels of genetic diversity and limited population differentiation at all spatial scales. This suggests high levels of gene flow among sampling locations. However, natural dispersal in C. capitata has been shown to rarely exceed 10 km. Therefore, documented levels of high gene flow in the present study, even between distant populations (>1600 km), are likely the result of human-mediated dispersal or at least some form of long-distance jump dispersal. These findings may have broad applicability to other global fruit production areas and have significant implications for ongoing pest management practices, such as the sterile insect technique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ceratitis capitata / classification
  • Ceratitis capitata / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Gene Flow / genetics
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genetics, Population
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • South Africa


  • DNA, Mitochondrial

Grant support

This study was funded by Fruitgro Science (JST), NRF-THRIP (P. Addison) and NRF Scarce Skills. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.