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Heredity (Edinb). 2008 Mar;100(3):261-7. Epub 2007 Nov 14.

Rapid evolutionary change in a sexual signal: genetic control of the mutation 'flatwing' that renders male field crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus) mute.

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Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.


Colonizing events may expose organisms to physical and ecological environments found nowhere else in their range. Novel selection pressures can then influence subsequent rapid evolutionary changes. Here, I investigate the genetics of one such rapid change in the sexual signal of Polynesian field crickets, Teleogryllus oceanicus, that recently colonized the Hawaiian Islands. In Hawaii, T. oceanicus encounter a deadly parasitoid fly found nowhere else in their range. In <20 generations, a wing mutation, flatwing, that eliminates the crickets' song, an important sexual signal, but protects them from the fly, spread to >90% of males on the island of Kauai. I show, using crosses between flatwing males and females from a population that has never contained flatwings, that the song-suppressing mutation is due to a change in a single sex-linked locus. Contemporary evolution of secondary sexual characteristics has only rarely been identified as the result of single-gene changes and never before as a single sex-linked locus, but sex-linked inheritance is thought to facilitate the rapid evolution of these types of traits. Because divergence of sexual signals can influence reproductive isolation, understanding how colonization events and subsequent selection affect signals, and the genetic mechanisms of such change, can shed light on processes likely to play a role in speciation.

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