Variation and Evolution of Male Sex Combs in Drosophila: Nature of Selection Response and Theories of Genetic Variation for Sexual Traits
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We investigated the genetic architecture of variation in male sex comb bristle number, a rapidly evolving secondary sexual character of Drosophila. Twenty-four generations of divergent artificial selection for sex comb bristle number in a heterogeneous population of Drosophila melanogaster resulted in a significant response that was more pronounced in the direction of low bristle numbers. We observed a strong positive correlated response to selection in the corresponding female transverse bristle row. The correlated response in male abdominal and sternopleural bristle numbers, on the other hand, did not follow the same pattern as sex comb bristle number differences between selection lines. Relaxation-of-selection experiments along with mate choice and fecundity assays using the selection lines developed demonstrated the action of stabilizing selection on sex comb bristle number. Our results show (1) substantial genetic variation underlying sex comb bristle number variation; (2) a weak relationship between the sex comb and developmentally related, non-sex bristle systems; and (3) that sexual selection may be a driving force in sex comb evolution, indicating the potential of sex combs to diversify rapidly during population differentiation and speciation. We discuss the implications of these results for theories of genetic variation in display and nondisplay male sex traits.
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