Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The genome sequence of the avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi), an invasive nest parasite of Darwin's finches in galápagos.

Abstract

The invasive avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi, Diptera: Muscidae) is considered one of the greatest threats to the endemic avifauna of the Galápagos Islands. The fly larvae parasitize nearly every passerine species, including Darwin's finches. Most P. downsi research to date has focused on the effects of the fly on avian host fitness and mitigation methods. A lag in research related to the genetics of this invasion demonstrates, in part, the need to develop full-scale genomic resources with which to address further questions within this system. In this study, an adult female P. downsi was sequenced to generate a high-quality genome assembly. We examined various features of the genome (e.g., coding regions and noncoding transposable elements) and carried out comparative genomics analysis against other dipteran genomes. We identified lists of gene families that are significantly expanding or contracting in P. downsi that are related to insecticide resistance, detoxification, and counter defense against host immune responses. The P. downsi genome assembly provides an important resource for studying the molecular basis of successful invasion in the Galápagos and the dynamics of its population across multiple islands. The findings of significantly changing gene families associated with insecticide resistance and immune responses highlight the need for further investigations into the role of different gene families in aiding the fly's successful invasion. Furthermore, this genomic resource provides a necessary tool to better inform future research studies and mitigation strategies aimed at minimizing the fly's impact on Galápagos birds.