Elucidation of the mechanism of action of selfish genetic elements is difficult outside species with well-defined genetics. Male-killing, the phenomenon whereby inherited bacteria kill male hosts during embryogenesis, is thus uncharacterized in mechanistic terms despite being common and important in insects. We characterized the prevalence, identity and source of the male-killing infection recently discovered in Drosophila melanogaster in Brazil. Male-killing was found to be present in 2.3% of flies from Recife, Brazil, and was uniquely associated with the presence of Spiroplasma infection. The identity of sequences across part of the 16S and across the 16S-23S ITS region indicated that the male-killing infection of D. melanogaster was very closely related to S. poulsonii, the source of the male-killing infection in willistoni group flies also found in South America. The sequences of two further protein-coding genes indicated the D. melanogaster infection to be most closely related to that found in D. nebulosa, from the willistoni group. Our data suggest that the establishment of D. melanogaster in South America was associated with the movement of male-killing bacteria between species.
The succession of yeasts colonizing the fallen ripe amapa fruit, from Parahancornia amapa, was examined. The occupation of the substrate depended on both the competitive interactions of yeast species, such as the production of killer toxins, and the selective dispersion by the drosophilid guild of the amapa fruit. The yeast community associated with this Amazon fruit differed from those isolated from other fruits in the same forest. The physiological profile of these yeasts was mostly restricted to the assimilation of a few simple carbon sources, mainly L-sorbose, D-glycerol, DL-lactate, cellobiose, and salicin. Common fruit-associated yeasts of the genera Kloeckera and Hanseniaspora, Candida guilliermondii, and Candida krusei colonized fruits during the first three days after the fruit fell. These yeasts were dispersed and served as food for the invader Drosophila malerkotliana. The resident flies of the Drosophila willistoni group fed selectively on patches of yeasts colonizing fruits 3 to 10 days after the fruit fell. The killer toxin-producing yeasts Pichia kluyveri var. kluyveri and Candida fructus were probably involved in the exclusion of some species during the intermediate stages of fruit deterioration. An increase in pH, inhibiting toxin activity and the depletion of simple sugars, may have promoted an increase in yeast diversity in the later stages of decomposition. The yeast succession provided a patchy environment for the drosophilids sharing this ephemeral substrate.
Five natural samples of a recent South America invader, the drosophilid Zaprionus indianus, were investigated with the isofemale line technique. These samples were compared to five African mainland populations, investigated with the same method. The results were also compared to data obtained on mass cultures of other populations from Africa and India. Three quantitative traits were measured on both sexes, wing and thorax length and sternopleural bristle number. We did not find any latitudinal trend among the American samples, while a significant increase in body size with latitude was observed in the Indian and, to a lesser degree, in the African populations. American populations were also characterized by their bigger size. Genetic variability, estimated by the intraclass correlation among isofemale lines, was similar in American and African populations. The intraline, nongenetic variability was significantly less in the American samples, suggesting a better developmental stability, the origin of which is unclear. A positive relationship was evident between intraline variability of size traits and the wing-thorax length correlation. Altogether, our data suggest that the colonizing propagule introduced to Brazil had a fairly large size, preventing any bottleneck effect being detected. The big body size of American flies suggests that they came from a high-latitude African country. The lack of a latitudinal cline in America seems to be related to the short time elapsed since introduction. The very rapid spread of Z. indianus all over South America suggests that it might rapidly invade North America.
To characterize the morphological variation in a natural population of Drosophila mediopunctata, males were collected on three occasions at a single locality. From each wild-caught male 14 body measures were taken and the karyotype for inversions on chromosomes X and II was determined. Through a principal components analysis, two sources of variation, identified as size and shape, accounted for approximately 80 and 6 per cent of the total morphological variability, respectively. The shape component was determined primarily by variations in the position of the wing second longitudinal vein. Differences between collections were detected both for size and shape. An altitudinal dine was observed in respect of wing shape, although altitude explained only a small part of the shape variation. Size and shape were affected by chromosome II inversions. However, in respect of size, no direct differences were detected between karyotypes but a significant interaction between collecting date and karyotype was found. This suggests that karyotypes might differ in their norms of reaction in the field.
We suggest a new phylogenetic hypothesis for the tripunctata radiation based on sequences of mitochondrial genes. Phylogenetic trees were reconstructed by parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. We performed tests for hypotheses of monophyly for taxonomic groups and other specific hypotheses. Results reject the monophyly for the tripunctata group whereas monophyly is not rejected for the tripunctata radiation and other specific groups within the radiation. Although most of the basal nodes were unresolved we were able to identify four clusters within the tripunctata radiation. These results suggest the collection of additional data before a proper taxonomic revision could be proposed.
We have studied the morphology of wings of Drosophila mediopunctata employing the ellipse method, a procedure that allows precise descriptions of wing size (SI), wing shape outline (SH), and placement of longitudinal wing veins. We have found that the SH and the points which determine the position of the apices of the third, fourth and fifth longitudinal wing veins show high heritability in nature (the lower bound for the natural heritability is above 0.25). The values found are similar to those obtained for the broad-sense heritabilities (H2) in the laboratory. However, SI and the point which determines the apex of the second longitudinal wing vein showed small lower bounds for heritability in nature, 0.05 and 0.07, respectively, in spite of the high estimates of H2 in the laboratory. These results suggest that size and shape have different genetic properties. We observed a high positive phenotypic correlation between the SH, the fourth and the fifth longitudinal wing veins, which contrasts with a negative correlation between these traits and the second longitudinal vein. That is, as the SH gets longer, the apices of the second and fifth veins become closer to each other. Positive genetic correlations in the field were detected between SH, the fourth and the fifth longitudinal veins and also between the third and the fourth veins.
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