April 2, 2011

Tracing The Origins Of The Fly

An international team of scientists published new research this week on the origins of flies and, and despite popular belief, the common ancestry house flies have with mosquitoes.

Researchers, publishing a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, said the mosquito branched off the same evolutionary tree as the house fly about 220 million years ago, while the house fly branched off about 170 million years later.

While only a few species of flies are commonly known and considered pests, there are more than 152,000 named species of flies, which account for close to 10 percent of all species on Earth.

Flies evolved to thrive in almost any nutrient-rich substrate and in nearly every corner of the globe.

The new research "provides an evolutionary framework for future comparative work on species that are critically important to both society and science," said one of the paper's co-authors, Dr David Yeates from CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.

"What this research shows us is that the Fly Tree of Life went through three periods of fast diversification, with many different groups experimenting with ways to be a fly," Yeates said in a statement.

"The mosquito, March fly and common house fly are everyday members of these bursts of evolution, which occurred during unstable periods of Earth's history when dramatic environmental change created new habitats for these "Ëœexperimental' flies," he added.

"The really interesting thing is that living representatives of these early branching groups, such as mosquitoes and March flies, are still with us," Yeates said.

March flies branched off the evolutionary tree around 175 million years ago.

The research conducted by 27 scientists from six countries.


Image 1: Flies originated in wet environments and as they evolved they adapted to feed in almost any nutrient-rich substrate, becoming adapted to almost any environment on earth. Credit: David McClenaghan, CSIRO

Image 2: The mosquito branched off the same evolutionary tree as the house fly around 220 million years ago. Credit: David McClenaghan, CSIRO


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