The evolution of generalism: why so many polyphagous fruit flies? (ARC Discovery Project administered by Queensland University of Technology) (2018–2021)
Insect herbivores make up 50% of eukaryotic species on earth. Nearly all are host specialists, feeding on only
one or very few plant species. In stark contrast, 40% of tropical fruit flies are generalists, feeding across many
plant families. The project will test specific hypotheses to explain the high frequency of generalism in Bactrocera,
asking both evolutionary and ecological questions by using a mix of comparative phylogenetic and behavioural
experiments. Outcomes will significantly advance our understanding of the evolution of generalism, and so
greatly advance herbivory theory. As Bactrocera are also globally significant horticultural pests, the project will
provide under-pinning science for pest management.