School is out, but the Spotted Wing Drosophila Research Group is doing all kinds of awesome science at the University of Hawai‘i, Hilo. Our research group is studying the evolutionary ecology of an invasive species- Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) also known as Drosophila suzukii in the Hawaiian Islands. SWD is a significant pest of important food crops like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. They are native to east Asia, and were unintentionally introduced to Hawai‘i in the 1980s. In Hawai‘i, SWD can use the fruits of the native ‘ohelo (Vaccinium reticulatum) as a host, as well as the highly invasive strawberry guava (Psidium cattleyanum). Female SWD damages these fruits by using their serrated ovipositor to lay eggs in the unsuspecting fruit. The eggs subsequently hatch into larvae in the fruit, and eat the flesh on the inside of the fruit to fuel their growth. Eventually the larvae pupates, and emerges as an adult from the compromised fruit to start the whole cycle again.
The University of Hawai‘i, Hilo research group is studying SWD’s ability to adapt to seasonal variation in Hawai‘i (yes it can get cold here in the winter, especially at high elevation!). NSF-REU intern Marcel Jardeleza is measuring wing size variation of natural populations of SWD on Mauna Loa Volcano collected over a 6-month period. She is interested in determining whether SWD wing size changes over time in response to seasonal temperature variability. USDA-ARS student technician Daniel Martinez is raising wild caught Hawaiian SWD populations in the lab to determine if wing size variation is genetically inherited in wild populations, or due to environmental variability. Below are some photos of the University of Hawai‘i, Hilo Research Group hard at work!