« April 2018 »
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Events calendar


Leuvensesteenweg 13
3080 Tervuren - Belgium
Tel. (+32) 02 769 52 11
Fax (+32) 02 769 52 42


Back from Africa

Massimiliano Virgilio & Maarten De Cock

Maarten De Cock
Massimiliano Virgilio

Museum scientists routinely travel to Africa to conduct research and develop projects in partnership with local institutions.

Massimiliano Virgilio and Maarten De Cock (Invertebrates service) spent a week in Morogoro, Tanzania, in August 2017, where they collected fruit flies, in order to study their gut bacteria.

The so-called 'true' fruit flies (family Tephritidae) include some of the most notorious horticultural and agricultural pests. Females lay their eggs in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The larvae then feed on these, destroying up to 90 % of crops in the process.

Different fruit fly species have different feeding strategies. While some are generalists (attacking many different plant species), others are specialists attacking only one plant species.

To defend themselves, some plants produce toxic compounds in order to keep pests at bay. Specialist flies often target these ‘difficult’ host plants, as they evolved ways to digest their toxic compounds. Generalists flies, on the other hand, are thought to be less tolerant to these toxic compounds, but can feed on a wider range of fruits.

Massimiliano Virgilio and Maarten De Cock spent a week in Morogoro, Tanzania, collecting several hundreds of fruit fly larvae. Their mission was organised in collaboration with Prof. Maulid Mwatawala from the Sokoine University of Agriculture and involved working both on the field (sampling fruits across the Uluguru Mountains) and in the lab (rearing the larvae from fruits and vegetables).

The next step of their research is to compare the gut bacterial communities across flies with different feeding preferences. Their goal is to investigate whether generalist flies have more diverse bacterial communities than specialists. Their results may provide useful information for pest control strategies.

Their work is carried out within the SYMDIV project (‘Symbiont diversity and feeding strategies in insect agricultural pests’), a collaboration between the RMCA and Ghent University.

Document Actions