Genetical Research

Evolution of a lesser fitness trait: egg production in the specialist Drosophila sechellia

a1 Laboratoire Populations, Génétique et Evolution, CNRS, 91198 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France
a2 Department of Ecology and Evolution, The University of Chicago, 1103 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA


In the evolutionary process during which Drosophila sechellia became specialized on a toxic fruit (morinda), a spectacular decrease in female reproductive capacity took place when compared with the species' generalist relatives D. mauritiana and D. simulans. Comparisons of species and interspecific crosses showed that two different traits were modified: number of ovarioles and rate of egg production. During the conservation of a D. sechellia strain on usual food, adaptation to laboratory conditions led to an increase in the rate of oogenesis but not in ovariole number. Comparison of F1 and backcross progeny also suggests that the two traits are determined by different genes (ovariole number has already been shown to be polygenic). When morinda is available as a resource, the low rate of egg production in D. sechellia is partly compensated by a stimulating effect, while an inhibition occurs in D. simulans. It is assumed that D. sechellia progressively adapted itself from rotten, non-toxic morinda to a fresher and more toxic resource. During this process the rate of oogenesis evolved from an inhibition to a stimulation by morinda. Simultaneously a spectacular decrease in ovariole number took place, either as a consequence of stochastic events related to the small population size of D. sechellia and a metapopulation dynamics, or as an adaptive process favouring dispersal capacities of the female.

(Received February 12 1996)
(Revised July 3 1996)

Current address: Laboratoire de Génétique des populations, Faculté des Sciences I, Université Cadi Ayyad, BP S.15, Marrakech, 4000 Morocco.
Corresponding author: Laboratoire Populations, Génétique et Evolution, CNRS, 91198 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France. Tel: +33 1 69 82 37 13. Fax: +33 1 69 07 04 21. e-mail