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Proc Biol Sci. Aug 7, 2000; 267(1452): 1487–1495.
PMCID: PMC1690712

Evolutionary novelties in islands: Drosophila santomea, a new melanogaster sister species from São Tomé.


The finding of new melanogaster sister species may help us in understanding more about how the emergence of genetic novelties, particularly in insular habitats, can result in speciation. Here we report on the discovery of Drosophila santomea, which is the first melanogaster sibling found off West-equatorial Africa, on São Tomé, one of the Gulf of Guinea islands. Although the eight other melanogaster sister species are remarkably conservative in their morphology except for their terminalia, the new find has a morphological trait distinguishing it from all of these: a pure yellow body coloration of both sexes without the normal black abdominal banding. Evidence from the terminalia, polytene and mitotic chromosomes, period gene and allozymes are provided indicating that it is nonetheless the nearest relative of Drosophila yakuba with which it coexists on the island. The new find is a clear-cut taxon as shown by the production of sterile male hybrids, eventually with developmental defects, in both directions of cross with yakuba and by the existence of an altitudinal divide accompanied by a hybrid zone at mid-elevation on the island. Molecular and karyotypic data further support this conclusion. In contrast to the significant divergence of their nuclear DNAs, an intriguing similarity in their cytochrome b sequences was observed indicating a recent coalescence common to santomea, yakuba and also teissieri cytoplasms. These were shown to harbour the same Wolbachia endosymbiotic bacteria which could possibly be responsible for mitochondrial DNA hitchhiking across the species barrier.

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