The molecular through ecological genetics of abnormal abdomen. IV. Components of genetic variation in a natural population of Drosophila mercatorum. Academic Article uri icon


  • Natural populations of Drosophila mercatorum are polymorphic for a phenotypic syndrome known as abnormal abdomen (aa). This syndrome is characterized by a slow-down in egg-to-adult developmental time, retention of juvenile abdominal cuticle in the adult, increased early female fecundity, and decreased adult longevity. Previous studies revealed that the expression of this syndrome in females is controlled by two closely linked X chromosomal elements: the occurrence of an R1 insert in a third or more of the X-linked 28S ribosomal genes (rDNA), and the failure of replicative selection favoring uninserted 28S genes in larval polytene tissues. The expression of this syndrome in males in a laboratory stock was associated with the deletion of the rDNA normally found on the Y chromosome. In this paper we quantify the levels of genetic variation for these three components in a natural population of Drosophila mercatorum found near Kamuela, Hawaii. Extensive variation is found in the natural population for both of the X-linked components. Moreover, there is a significant association between variation in the proportion of R1 inserted 28S genes with allelic variation at the underreplication (ur) locus such that both of the necessary components for aa expression in females tend to cosegregate in the natural population. Accordingly, these two closely linked X chromosomal elements are behaving as a supergene in the natural population. Because of this association, we do not believe the R1 insert to be actively transposing to an appreciable extent. The Y chromosomes extracted from nature are also polymorphic, with 16% of the Ys lacking the Y-specific rDNA marker. The absence of this marker is significantly associated with the expression of aa in males. Hence, all three of the major genetic determinants of the abnormal abdomen syndrome are polymorphic in this natural population.

published proceedings

  • Genetics

author list (cited authors)

  • Hollocher, H., Templeton, A. R., DeSalle, R., & Johnston, J. S.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Hollocher, H||Templeton, AR||DeSalle, R||Johnston, JS

publication date

  • February 1992