Cryptic reproductive isolation in the Drosophila simulans species complex

Evolution. 2001 Jan;55(1):81-92. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2001.tb01274.x.


Forms of reproductive isolation that act after copulation but before fertilization are potentially important components of speciation, but are studied only infrequently. We examined postmating, prezygotic reproductive isolation in three hybridizations within the Drosophila simulans species complex. We allowed females to mate only once, observed and timed all copulations, dissected a subset of the females to track the storage and retention of sperm, examined the number and hatchability of eggs laid after insemination, counted all progeny produced, and measured the longevity of mated females. Each of the three hybridizations is characterized by a different set of cryptic barriers to heterospecific fertilization. When D. simulans females mate with D. sechellia males, few heterospecific sperm are transferred, even during long copulations. In contrast, copulations of D. simulans females with D. mauritiana males are often too short to allow sperm transfer. Those that are long enough to allow insemination, however, involve the transfer of many sperm, but only a fraction of these heterospecific sperm are stored by females, who also lay fewer eggs than do D. simulans females mated with conspecific males. Finally, when D. mauritiana females mate with D. simulans males, sperm are transferred and stored in abundance, but are lost rapidly from the reproductive tract and are therefore used inefficiently. These results add considerably to the list of reproductive isolating mechanisms in this well-studied clade and possibly to the list of evolutionary processes that could contribute to their reproductive isolation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertilization*
  • Genitalia / anatomy & histology
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Spermatozoa / physiology