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Genetica. 2004 Mar;120(1-3):181-94.

Ecological and genetic interactions in Drosophila-parasitoids communities: a case study with D. melanogaster, D. simulans and their common Leptopilina parasitoids in south-eastern France.

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Lab. Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, UMR CNRS 5558, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 69622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France.


Drosophila species are attacked by a number of parasitoid wasps, which constitute an important factor of population regulation. Since Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans share common parasitoid species, their ecology and evolution can hardly be understood without considering parasitoids. After a short review of data available on Drosophila-parasitoid interactions involving D. melanogaster and D. simulans as hosts, we report field and laboratory experiments investigating the ecological role of Leptopilina parasitoids in Drosophila communities of southern France. Seasonal survey of species abundance shows that strong interspecific interactions occur at both tropic levels. D. simulans progressively replaces D. melanogaster in southern areas suggesting competitive displacement. Parasitoids are responsible for very high Drosophila mortality (up to 90% in some fruits). Field data emphasize the importance of selective pressure that parasitoids exert on Drosophila communities. The two Leptopilina parasites (L. heterotoma and L boulardi) have different local abundances, which vary in time, and they also compete for hosts. We show that parasitoids can mediate the coexistence of D. melanogaster and D. simulans in the laboratory, and thus may contribute to their puzzling coexistence in the field. Conversely, hosts exert selective pressures on parasitoids, and development on either D. melanogaster or D. simulans strongly affects fitness of adult wasps in a temperature-dependent fashion. Local variation in host species abundance and diversity could thus account for the genetic differentiation we observed in one parasitoid species. Despite laboratory studies cannot fully explain complex field situations, it is clear that the ecology and evolution of Drosophila populations and communities, especially D. melanogaster and D. simulans, are strongly constrained by parasitoids, which should receive more attention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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