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A Single Gene Affects Both Ecological Divergence and Mate Choice in Drosophila

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Science  07 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6175, pp. 1148-1151
DOI: 10.1126/science.1249998

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Evolutionary Duality

When ecological divergence involves traits that also contribute to mating behavior, such divergence could lead to rapid reproductive isolation and speciation. However, there are very few experimental demonstrations of such “dual” traits. Chung et al. (p. 1148, published online 13 February) now demonstrate that specific cuticular hydrocarbons are a dual trait that affects both desiccation resistance and mate choice in the widely distributed Australian species Drosophila serrata. These compounds have largely been lost from its rainforest-restricted, desiccation-sensitive, closely related sibling D. birchii.

Abstract

Evolutionary changes in traits involved in both ecological divergence and mate choice may produce reproductive isolation and speciation. However, there are few examples of such dual traits, and the genetic and molecular bases of their evolution have not been identified. We show that methyl-branched cuticular hydrocarbons (mbCHCs) are a dual trait that affects both desiccation resistance and mate choice in Drosophila serrata. We identify a fatty acid synthase mFAS (CG3524) responsible for mbCHC production in Drosophila and find that expression of mFAS is undetectable in oenocytes (cells that produce CHCs) of a closely related, desiccation-sensitive species, D. birchii, due in part to multiple changes in cis-regulatory sequences of mFAS. We suggest that ecologically influenced changes in the production of mbCHCs have contributed to reproductive isolation between the two species.

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