Mission completed

The cline for D. montana on the Western coast of USA has now been completed. Cheers!  It reaches from Vancouver (lat 49o 15′, old sample) to Azalea (lat 42o 45′). Unfortunately we succeeded to get only three females from Azalea, but already for Fall Creek (lat 44o) the sample size is much bigger. It will be really exiting to see what kind of clines we will find e.g. in the cold tolerance and diapause behaviour of the flies and how do they look like compared to our European samples from much higher latitudes. And is there a good reason to call these flies ‘giant montana’?

Special thanks to Mikko who has been a tireless driver and collected half of the flies during the trip. Here he is standing in front of a jail waiting to be hanged.

Catching flies becomes more and more difficult

The density of D. montana populations in Washington state and also in northern parts of Oregon seems to be quite high, but in southern Oregon it has become already quite difficult to collect these flies. During the last days the weather has been quite cold and rainy, but yesterday sun was shining and we still got only three flies. Anyway, we now have a cline with six samples with at least 100 km distances (Vancouver taken into account) from the west coast of USA. And according to old literature at least the southern samples should be ‘giant montana’ adopted to live on low altitudes and latitudes!

We have also tried to collect D. melanogaster, but here we have had no success. In northern Oregon we visited n orchard with lots of pear trees (and great wine) and spread the baits under the trees – but no success. The owner of the orchard did not know about D. melanogaster, but he said that D. suzukii has become a real nuisace for them. In northern Oregon this species has only three generations, but in more southern orchards it has up to ten generations per year.

More flies

Fly collecting has been quite successful. We now have samples of at least  20 flies or more from four sites with about 100 km distances in north-south angle. The southernmost sample (Carson, Washington State) has been collected flies from the same area where M.R. Wheeler and W. Heed collected giant D. montana about 60 years ago. Today we shall continue collection in Oregon state, but unfortunately this seems to be a rainy day. We have also been trying to collect D. melanogaster, but unfortunately all yellow-brown flies we have collected so far appeared to be D. transversa or D. phalerata.

As you can see our movable fly-laboratory (lab on the wheels) works fine!

While driving one can also enjoy spectacular views. Here is the mountain of St Helen (the top of the mountain was blown away about 30 years ago).

Sealions and flies

We drove to Washinton state through California and Oregon along the west coast of USA, stopping now and then to collect flies. We got flies, but not the right ones. A touristical high point on this part of journey was a visit a huge sea lion cave (try to imagine the noise and smell).

 The coast was beautiful.

In Oregon we started to see more and more alders and in Washinton also some aspen trees. And then we started to get D. montana. The northernmost sample is about 60 km from the Canadian border (about 100 km south from Vancouver) and the next one about 100 km southwards. We are still collecting larger samples from these sites and then we will begin to move southwards. We have also collected some flies, which look like D. melanogaster group flies, and a lot of D. obscura group flies.

I think that we came here just in right time. It is early spring – resembles the time in Mayday in Jyväskylä.

California – here we come!

Fly collecting in Havaiji was quite successful and D. grimshawi flies and their relatives are now being cultured in University of Havaiji – some of them will soon be sent in Jyvaskyla. Couple of days ago we left Hawaiji and started our trip along the northern coast of USA with a minicaravan.

The first stop was at the University of California in Berkeley, where we got the fly collecting equipments sent by Tiina and Laura (thank you!). Unfortunately the package was found only at the same day as we arrived, so no bait had been prepared. Well, we shall start with banana baits…

We spent the first night in Napa Valley (but did not drink any wine as we were too tired), and then the journey continued northwards. We are looking for aspen and alder trees along riversides to find good places to start collecting the flies. No luck so far – but this is anyway too south for D. montana flies. Instead of above-mentioned trees we found some huge redwoodtrees (the oldest ones were 1400 years old!).

Lanai and West-Maui

It has been quite a long time since the last remarks, but we have been out of the reach of civilization. After collecting flies on Maui (and getting about 20 D. grimshawi flies), we went to the island of Lanai with Steven Montgomery. Steven is an enthusiastic naturalist and explorer and we have spent the last week driving along rough roads and trying to keep in pace with him in climbing the mountain slopes (usually losing him from sight in a few minutes).

Lanai is a beautiful island, but quite eroded on large areas. We visited the opening ceremonies of a renovated area on mountain mist forests ‘The Garden of Gods’, where people had done a lot of work in trying to reestablish the original forest. Fly collecting on Lanai was not easy, but we succeeded to collect six D. grimshawi flies in the beautiful valley of Hi’i. Trials to collect flies on mountain ridges were not successful.

Finally, we made another effort to get to the mountains on West Maui. This time we got help from Monroe, who took us to the mountains with his pick-up. We stayed in a lonely little cottage on the top of the mountain, Pu’u Kukui, with a magnificent view. The wind was blowing very hard whole the time so that the roof of the cottage was about to fly away. On the last day of our visit there the wind calmed down a bit and we succeeded to get four D. grimshawi flies and also some other picture-wings.

Identifying and sexing the flies was not very quick without electricity.

Big island

We spent last week on Big Island. The idea was to collect flies of some of study species from another island and, if possible, to find D. grimshawi’s close relative, D. pullipens. We were staying in a cozy cottage of late Meredith and Hampton Carson, now belonging to the University of Hawaii.

On Big Island we spent four days collecting flies from Upper Waikamoi. This area appeared to have a rich community of picture-winged flies. We got nearly 100 flies, most of them belonging to four species endemic to Big Island, e.g. D. sproati (but no D. pullipens).

Once you are on a volcano island, you sure have to visit the volcanoes. This time there were no active eruptions going on, but everything was still quite impressive.

 

Nature conservation center

The trip to West Maui was unsuccessful. Even though Mikko drove like the best Finnish rally drivers, the jeep was not able to get upwards on the muddy road. After some exciting moments we were very happy to get back on the paved road on the root of the mountain. We next headed towards a Nature Conservation Center owned by a friend of Steve Montgomery (one of our colleagues who took part in this trip), where we were offered free accommodation in a storage room and challenging surroundings for fly collecting.

Up to the mountains

Maui has two high mountains, East Maui and West Maui. So far we have been collecting flies on East Maui (the slopes of Halekala), but tomorrow we shall drive/climb to West Maui and spend I night there in a small hut.

The boys left yesterday to Oahu to do some surfing after fly catching and also to bring the flies in lab. Ville and Tommi will continue towards Finland on Friday. It is always a sad moment when somebody has to leave from here, but hopefully the boys will have some good surfs before that.

Finally Drosophila grimshawi

Hawaiian flies live in mountain rain forests and like smelly mushroom and banana baits, not beer like D. montana. Very often we are  quite wet, muddy and tired (but happy) after a collecting trip with a lot of walking and climbing. To catch the flies one first has to find their host trees and usually we get only a few flies per day, most of them being of the species we are not interested in.

One can also use overnight baits, but we have not succeeded to get many flies with them.

It was a great moment to catch the first D. grimshawi flies (a genome species!). There are about 100 picture-winged Drosophila species endemic to Hawaii, and most of them have species-specific configurations in their wings. D. grimshawi can also be distinguished from other species by the three spots on the sides of their thorax.

One day we kept a break in fly work and went to see the humpback whales. That was a great trip: we drove on  a rubber float out to the sea (of course without any life-wests) and watched courting and fighting whales for a couple of hours (altogether five whales).

After the days work it is nice to come back in our beach house, which we got for a walk-in price (half price) thanks to Tommi. Our landlady gave us a nick-name ‘Walkins’.

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