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Genetica. 2005 Nov;125(2-3):211-22.

Genetic architecture of two fitness-related traits in Drosophila melanogaster: ovariole number and thorax length.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.


In Drosophila melanogaster, ovariole number and thorax length are morphological characters thought to be associated with fitness. Maximum daily egg production in females is positively correlated with ovariole number, while thorax length is correlated with male reproductive success and female fecundity. Though both traits are related to fitness, ovariole number is likely to be under stabilizing selection, while thorax length appears to be under directional selection. Current research has focused on examining the sources of variation for ovariole number in relation to fitness, with a view towards elucidating how segregating variation is maintained in natural populations. Here, we utilize a diallel design to explore the genetic architecture of ovariole number and thorax length in nine isogenic lines derived from a natural population. The full diallel design allows the estimation of general combining ability (GCA), specific combining ability (SCA), and also describes variation due to reciprocal effects (RGCA and RSCA). Ovariole number and thorax length differed with respect to their genetic architecture, reflective of the independent selective forces acting on the traits. For ovariole number, GCA accounted for the majority (67.3%) of variation segregating between the lines, with no evidence of reciprocal effects or inbreeding depression; SCA accounted for a small percentage (3.9%) of the variance, suggesting dominance variation; no reciprocal effects were observed. In contrast, for thorax length, the majority of the non-error variance was accounted for by SCA (17.9%), with only one third as much variance (6.2%) due to GCA. Interestingly, RSCA (nuclear-extranuclear interactions) accounted for slightly more variation (7.5%) than GCA in these data. Thus, genetic variation for thorax length is largely in accord with predictions for a fitness trait under directional selection: little additive genetic variation and substantial dominance variation (including a suggestion of inbreeding depression); while the mechanisms underlying the maintenance of variation for ovariole number are more complex.

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