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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57158. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057158. Epub 2013 Feb 25.

Coevolution between male and female genitalia in the Drosophila melanogaster species subgroup.

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Unité Mixte de Recherche 7592, Institut Jacques Monod, Université Paris Diderot, Paris, France.


In contrast to male genitalia that typically exhibit patterns of rapid and divergent evolution among internally fertilizing animals, female genitalia have been less well studied and are generally thought to evolve slowly among closely-related species. As a result, few cases of male-female genital coevolution have been documented. In Drosophila, female copulatory structures have been claimed to be mostly invariant compared to male structures. Here, we re-examined male and female genitalia in the nine species of the D. melanogaster subgroup. We describe several new species-specific female genital structures that appear to coevolve with male genital structures, and provide evidence that the coevolving structures contact each other during copulation. Several female structures might be defensive shields against apparently harmful male structures, such as cercal teeth, phallic hooks and spines. Evidence for male-female morphological coevolution in Drosophila has previously been shown at the post-copulatory level (e.g., sperm length and sperm storage organ size), and our results provide support for male-female coevolution at the copulatory level.

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