Date:December 18, 2015
Source:University of Utah
Mathematical simulations at the University of Utah show parasitic flies may spell extinction for Darwin's finches in the Galapagos Islands, but that pest-control efforts might save the birds that helped inspire the theory of evolution.
The new study "shows that the fly has the potential to drive populations of the most common species of Darwin's finch to extinction in several decades," says biology professor Dale Clayton, senior author of the study published online Dec. 18 in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
But the research "is not all doom and gloom," he adds. "Our mathematical model also shows that a modest reduction in the prevalence of the fly -- through human intervention and management -- would alleviate the extinction risk."
Several approaches may be needed, such as introducing fly-parasitizing wasps, removing chicks from nests for hand-rearing, raising sterile male flies to mate with females so they can't lay eggs in finch nests, and using insecticides, including placing pesticide-treated cotton balls where birds can collect them to self-fumigate their nests.