There are over 26,000 species of Drosophila, all of which are segmented animals with paired, jointed appendages (legs), two pairs of wings, and a hard outer covering or exoskeleton, but no internal skeleton as in humans. Drosophila yakuba is a close relative of Drosophila melanogaster, which has been heavily used as a model organism for research in genetics and developmental biology. The two species had a common ancestor about 10 million years ago.
Drosophila yakuba has a short generation time, going from a newly-laid egg to a sexually mature adult in about week. Females lay batches of small, white eggs on or near the surface of fermenting fruit or organic matter. Larvae emerge about 30 hours after the eggs are laid and feed near the surface of the fermenting material. The larvae feed for five to six days then crawl to drier areas of the food to pupate. The larva transforms into the pupa in the last larval skin, or puparium. The adult fruit fly emerges several days later. The newly emerged fruit flies are attracted to light and become sexually active in about two days. The adults mate more than once.
Drosophila yakuba is one of several small flying insects that are sometimes called "fruit flies". It is found on the African mainland and the nearby islands of Madagascar and Zanzibar in the Western Indian Ocean, and all the Gulf of Guinea islands in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. It occupies more or less open habitats including semiarid areas, mainly lowland savannas but also grassland, woodland, forests, and semi-domestic areas such as coffee and cacao plantations, but it is absent in rainforests. It feeds on fermenting fruit and fungus.
The sequencing plan for Drosophila yakuba called for high-quality draft sequence. This was accomplished with 8x whole genome shotgun coverage of short insert plasmids and larger insert fosmid clones, and two rounds of primer-directed, sequence improvement targeted at closing gaps in the assembly and improving regions of low-quality sequence.
The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), provided the funding for sequencing the D. yakuba genome.