Understanding the genetic basis of adaptation to novel environments remains one of the major challenges confronting evolutionary biologists. While newly developed genomic approaches hold considerable promise for addressing this overall question, the relevant tools have not often been available in the most ecologically interesting organisms. Our study organism, Drosophila mojavensis, is a cactophilic Sonoran Desert endemic utilizing four different cactus hosts across its geographical range. Its well-known ecology makes it an attractive system in which to study the evolution of gene expression during adaptation. As a cactophile, D. mojavensis oviposits in the necrotic tissues of cacti, therefore exposing larvae and even adults to the varied and toxic compounds of rotting cacti. We have developed a cDNA microarray of D. mojavensis to examine gene expression associated with cactus host use. Using a population from the Baja California population we examined gene expression differences of third instar larvae when reared in two chemically distinct cactus hosts, agria (Stenocereus gummosus, native host) vs. organpipe (Stenocereus thurberi, alternative host). We have observed differential gene expression associated with cactus host use in genes involved in metabolism and detoxification.
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