Genetics of a difference in pigmentation between Drosophila yakuba and Drosophila santomea

Evolution. 2002 Nov;56(11):2262-77. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00150.x.


Drosophila yakuba is a species widespread in Africa, whereas D. santomea, its newly discovered sister species, is endemic to the volcanic island of São Tomé in the Gulf of Guinea. Drosophila santomea probably formed after colonization of the island by its common ancestor with D. yakuba. The two species differ strikingly in pigmentation: D. santomea, unlike the other eight species in the D. melanogaster subgroup, almost completely lacks dark abdominal pigmentation. D. yakuba shows the sexually dimorphic pigmentation typical of the group: both sexes have melanic patterns on the abdomen, but males are much darker than females. A genetic analysis of this species difference using morphological markers shows that the X chromosome accounts for nearly 90% of the species difference in the area of abdomen that is pigmented and that at least three genes (one on each major chromosome) are involved in each sex. The order of chromosome effects on pigmentation area are the same in males and females, suggesting that loss of pigmentation in D. santomea may have involved the same genes in both sexes. Further genetic analysis of the interspecific difference between males in pigmentation area and intensity using molecular markers shows that at least five genes are responsible, with no single locus having an overwhelming effect on the trait. The species difference is thus oligogenic or polygenic. Different chromosomal regions from each of the two species influenced pigmentation in the same direction, suggesting that the species difference (at least in males) is due to natural or sexual selection and not genetic drift. Measurements of sexual isolation between the species in both light and dark conditions show no difference, suggesting that the pigmentation difference is not an important cue for interspecific mate discrimination. Using DNA sequence differences in nine noncoding regions, we estimate that D. santomea and D. yakuba diverged about 400,000 years ago, a time similar to the divergences between two other well-studied pair of species in the subgroup, both of which also involved island colonization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Chromosomes / genetics
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Drosophila / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila / physiology
  • Female
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Species Specificity


  • Biomarkers