A global research effort has recently determined that four of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests are actually one and the same.
Some of the world’s most damaging pest fruit flies — the Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis), the Philippine fruit fly (B. philippinensis), the invasive fruit fly (B. invadens), the carambola fruit fly (B. carambolae), and the Asian papaya fruit fly (B. papayae) — have been nearly impossible to distinguish from each other, which has made them difficult to manage, quarantine, and study.
These species cause incalculable damage to horticultural industries and food security across Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and parts of South America, so in 2009 a coordinated research effort got underway to definitively resolve the differences, if any, between these five destructive fruit flies.
The Philippine fruit fly was formally recognized as the same species as the Asian papaya fruit fly in 2013. However, a recent study published in the journal Systematic Entomology goes even further, conclusively demonstrating that they are also the same biological species as the Oriental and invasive fruit flies. These four species have now been combined under the single name: Bactrocera dorsalis, or the Oriental fruit fly.
“More than 40 researchers from 20 countries examined evidence across a range of disciplines, using morphological, molecular, cytogenetic, behavioral and chemoecological data to present a compelling case for this taxonomic change,” said Professor Tony Clarke, chair of Fruit Fly Biology and Management from the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre and the Queensland University of Technology. “This outcome has major implications for global plant biosecurity, especially for developing countries in Africa and Asia. Globally accepting these four pests as a single species will lead to improved international cooperation in pest management, more effective quarantine measures, reduced barriers to international trade, the wider application of established post-harvest treatments, improved fundamental research and, most importantly, enhanced food security for some of the world’s poorest nations.”