Annu Rev Genet.: auth.: Groups Benton & Auer

Annu Rev Genet. 2021 Sep 16. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-071719-020719. Online ahead of print.

Drosophila sechellia: A Genetic Model for Behavioral Evolution and Neuroecology

Thomas O Auer 1Michael P Shahandeh 1Richard Benton 1


Defining the mechanisms by which animals adapt to their ecological niche is an important problem bridging evolution, genetics, and neurobiology. We review the establishment of a powerful genetic model for comparative behavioral analysis and neuroecology, Drosophila sechellia. This island-endemic fly species is closely related to several cosmopolitan generalists, including Drosophila melanogaster, but has evolved extreme specialism, feeding and reproducing exclusively on the noni fruit of the tropical shrub Morinda citrifolia. We first describe the development and use of genetic approaches to facilitate genotype/phenotype associations in these drosophilids. Next, we survey the behavioral, physiological, and morphological adaptations of D. sechellia throughout its life cycle and outline our current understanding of the genetic and cellular basis of these traits. Finally, we discuss the principles this knowledge begins to establish in the context of host specialization, speciation, and the neurobiology of behavioral evolution and consider open questions and challenges in the field. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Genetics, Volume 55 is November 2021. Please see for revised estimates.