The genetic architecture of coordinately evolving male wing pigmentation and courtship behavior in Drosophila elegans and Drosophila gunungcola

Shu Dan Yeh, John R. True

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Many adaptive phenotypes consist of combinations of simpler traits that act synergistically, such as morphological traits and the behaviors that use those traits. Genetic correlations between components of such combinatorial traits, in the form of pleiotropic or tightly linked genes, can in principle promote the evolution and maintenance of these traits. In the Oriental Drosophila melanogaster species group, male wing pigmentation shows phylogenetic correlations with male courtship behavior, species with male-specific apical wing melanin spots also exhibit male visual wing displays, whereas species lacking these spots generally lack the displays. In this study, we investigated the quantitative genetic basis of divergence in male wing spots and displays between D. elegans, which possesses both traits, and its sibling species D. gunungcola, which lacks them. We found that divergence in wing spot size is determined by at least three quantitative trait loci (QTL) and divergence in courtship score is determined by at least four QTL. On the autosomes, QTL locations for pigmentation and behavior were generally separate, but on the X chromosome two clusters of QTL were found affecting both wing pigmentation and courtship behavior. We also examined the genetic basis of divergence in three components of male courtship, wing display, circling, and body shaking. Each of these showed a distinct genetic architecture, with some QTL mapping to similar positions as QTL for overall courtship score. Pairwise tests for interactions between marker loci revealed evidence of epistasis between putative QTL for wing pigmentation but not those for courtship behavior. The clustering of X-linked QTL for male pigmentation and behavior is consistent with the concerted evolution of these traits and motivates fine-scale mapping studies to elucidate the nature of the contributing genetic factors in these intervals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2079-2093
Number of pages15
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2014


  • Behavior
  • Complex traits
  • Courtship
  • Genetics of species differences
  • Pigmentation
  • QTL mapping


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