Phylogenomics provides insights into the evolution of cactophily and host plant shifts in Drosophila

Nicolás Nahuel Moreyra, Francisca Cunha Almeida, Carson Allan, Nicolás Frankel, Luciano Matías Matzkin, Esteban Hasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Cactophilic species of the Drosophila buzzatii cluster (repleta group) comprise an excellent model group to investigate genomic changes underlying adaptation to extreme climate conditions and host plants. In particular, these species form a tractable system to study the transition from chemically simpler breeding sites (like prickly pears of the genus Opuntia) to chemically more complex hosts (columnar cacti). Here, we report four highly contiguous genome assemblies of three species of the buzzatii cluster. Based on this genomic data and inferred phylogenetic relationships, we identified candidate taxonomically restricted genes (TRGs) likely involved in the evolution of cactophily and cactus host specialization. Functional enrichment analyses of TRGs within the buzzatii cluster identified genes involved in detoxification, water preservation, immune system response, anatomical structure development, and morphogenesis. In contrast, processes that regulate responses to stress, as well as the metabolism of nitrogen compounds, transport, and secretion were found in the set of species that are columnar cacti dwellers. These findings are in line with the hypothesis that those genomic changes brought about key mechanisms underlying the adaptation of the buzzatii cluster species to arid regions in South America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107653
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Adaptation
  • Cactophily
  • Host-shift
  • Orphan genes
  • Phylogenomics
  • buzzatii cluster

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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