Contrasting patterns of geographic variation in the cosmopolitan sibling species Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • An electrophoretic study was carried out to compare the geographic pattern of genetic variation in Drosophila simulans with that of its sibling species, Drosophila melanogaster. An identical set of 32 gene-protein loci was studied in four geographically distant populations of D. simulans and two populations of D. melanogaster, all originating from Europe and Africa. The comparison yielded the following results: tropical populations of D. simulans were, in terms of the number of unique alleles, average heterozygosity per locus, and percentage of loci polymorphic, more variable than conspecific-temperate populations; some loci in both species showed interpopulation differences in allele frequencies that suggest latitudinal clines; and temperate-tropical genetic differentiation between populations was much less in D. simulans than in D. melanogaster. Similar differences between these two species have previously been shown for chromosomal, quantitative, physiological, and middle-repetitive DNA variation. Estimates of Nm (number of migrants per generation) from the spatial distribution of rare alleles suggest that both species have similar levels of interpopulation gene flow. These observations lead us to propose two competing hypotheses: the low level of geographic differentiation in D. simulans is due to its evolutionarily recent worldwide colonization and, alternatively, D. simulans has a narrower niche than D. melanogaster. Geographic variation data on different genetic elements (e.g., mitochondrial DNA, two-dimensional proteins, etc.) are required before these hypotheses can be adequately tested.

publication date

  • February 1987