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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 28, 1995; 92(7): 2519–2523.

Sexual isolation in Drosophila melanogaster: a possible case of incipient speciation.


It is generally believed that Drosophila melanogaster has no closely related species with which it can produce the viable and fertile hybrids that are essential for the genetic analysis of speciation. Following the recent report of molecular differentiation between a Zimbabwe, Africa, population and two United States populations, we provide evidence that strong sexual isolation exists between the D. melanogaster population in Zimbabwe and populations of other continents. In the presence of males of their own kind, females from most isofemale lines of Zimbabwe would not mate with males from elsewhere; the reciprocal mating is also significantly reduced, but to a lesser degree. The genes for sexual behaviors are apparently polymorphic in Zimbabwe and postmating reproductive isolation between this and other populations has not yet evolved. Whole chromosome substitutions indicate significant genetic contributions to male mating success by both major autosomes, whereas the X chromosome effect is too weak to measure. In addition, the relative mating success between hybrid and pure line males supports the interpretation of strong female choice. These observations suggest that we are seeing the early stages of speciation in this group and that it is driven by sexual selection. The genetic and molecular tractability of D. melanogaster offers great promise for the detailed analysis of this apparent case of incipient speciation.

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Selected References

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