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Biology professor to present Alumni Seminar in Genetics Series, November 5

Donald Price headshot

Donald Price

Illinois State alumnus Donald Price, M.S. ’86, a biology professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, will present his current research on evolutionary aspects of the Hawaiian Drosophila (flies). Price is the director of the tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program at his university. His presentation “Rapid Evolutionary Diversification of Hawaiian Picture Wing Drosophila” will be given at 4 p.m. Thursday, November 5, in 210 Moulton Hall.


The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most isolated archipelago on Earth, nearly 3,700 kilometers from the nearest continent with high levels of habitat heterogeneity and numbers of endemic species. The Hawaiian Drosophila are one of the most species-rich Hawaiian endemic taxa with approximately 1,000 species that derive from one or two species about 25 million years ago. Nearly all of these species are single-island endemics and are further restricted to narrow climatic conditions and host-plant species.

I will first discuss our research on the Hawaiian picture wing Drosophila phylogenetics and their host-plant association and lead into our research on the population-level phylogeography of one species, Drosophila sproati, on Hawai’i Island. Then I will focus on the physiological and genomic analysis of temperature tolerances of Drosophila sproati and D. silvestris, a rarer species, both found on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano. Finally, I will discuss our reproductive and genomic analyses exploring the speciation process in several recently diverged species that occur on Maui and Hawai`i Islands, D. planitibia, D. silvestris and D. heteronuera. Overall, this research illustrates how the newer genomic analyses, combined with detailed ecological and phenotypic analyses, are ushering in a new era in our understanding of the diversity of life.