Divergence in olfactory host plant preference in D. mojavensis in response to cactus host use

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 25;8(7):e70027. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070027. Print 2013.


Divergence in host adaptive traits has been well studied from an ecological and evolutionary perspective, but identification of the proximate mechanisms underlying such divergence is less well understood. Behavioral preferences for host plants are often mediated by olfaction and shifts in preference may be accompanied by changes in the olfactory system. In this study, we examine the evolution of host plant preferences in cactophilic Drosophila mojavensis that feeds and breeds on different cacti throughout its range. We show divergence in electrophysiological responses and olfactory behavior among populations with host plant shifts. Specifically, significant divergence was observed in the Mojave Desert population that specializes on barrel cactus. Differences were observed in electrophysiological responses of the olfactory organs and in behavioral responses to barrel cactus volatiles. Together our results suggest that the peripheral nervous system has changed in response to different ecological environments and that these changes likely contribute to divergence among D. mojavensis populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cactaceae / chemistry*
  • Cactaceae / growth & development
  • Desert Climate
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Perception / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / growth & development
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / chemistry


  • Volatile Organic Compounds