Posts Tagged ‘pharyngula’

A True Fruit Fly - Tephritidae

Fruit flies are a family, Tephritidae, containing about 5,000 species of often strikingly colored insects.  As the name implies, these flies are frugivores.  Many, such as the mediterranean fruit fly, are agricultural pests.

Drosophila melanogaster, the insect that has been so important in genetic research, is not a true fruit fly.  Drosophila is a member of the Drosophilidae, the vinegar or pomace flies.  They are mostly fungivores, and their association with fruit is indirect: they eat the fungus that lives in rotting fruit.  Some pointy-headed geneticist started using the wrong common name for them a century ago, and legions of geneticists unfortunately followed suit. Now when someone says “fruit fly” we have no way of knowing what sort of insect it is without additional context.

I bring this up because the confusion between fruit flies and vinegar flies entered into U.S. presidential politics this week when Sarah Palin attacked Fruit Fly spending as wasteful:


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