Send to

Choose Destination
Evolution. 2004 Apr;58(4):768-80.

A time series of evolution in action: a latitudinal cline in wing size in South American Drosophila subobscura.

Author information

Department of Biology, Box 8795, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia 23187-8795, USA.


Drosophila subobscura is geographically widespread in the Old World. Around the late 1970s, it was accidentally introduced into both South and North America, where it spread rapidly over broad latitudinal ranges. This invading species offers opportunities to study the speed and predictability of trait evolution on a geographic scale. One trait of special interest is body size, which shows a strong and positive latitudinal cline in many Drosophila species, including Old World D. subobscura. Surveys made about a decade after the invasion found no evidence of a size cline in either North or South America. However, a survey made in North America about two decades after the invasion showed that a conspicuous size cline had evolved and (for females) was coincident with that for Old World flies. We have now conducted parallel studies on 10 populations (13 degrees of latitude) of flies, collected in Chile in spring 1999. After rearing flies in the laboratory for several generations, we measured wing sizes and compared geographic patterns (versus latitude or temperature) for flies on all three continents. South American females have now evolved a significant latitudinal size cline that is similar in slope to that of Old World and of North American flies. Rates of evolution (haldanes) for females are among the highest ever measured for quantitative traits. In contrast, the size cline is positive but not significant for South or North American males. At any given latitude, South American flies of both sexes are relatively large; this in part reflects the relatively cool climate of coastal Chile. Interestingly, the sections of the wing that generate the size cline for females differ among all three continents. Thus, although the evolution of overall wing size is predictable on a geographic scale (at least for females), the evolution of size of particular wing components is decidedly not.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center