Relations between cuticular hydrocarbon (HC) polymorphism, resistance against desiccation and breeding temperature; a model for HC evolution in D. melanogaster and D. simulans

Genetica. 2004 Mar;120(1-3):195-212. doi: 10.1023/b:gene.0000017641.75820.49.


D. simulans and D. melanogaster present two types of polymorphism in their cuticular hydrocarbon (HC) composition. Especially both sexes of D. simulans, and D. melanogaster males display 7-tricosene (7T) as the major compound type [7T]s and [7T]m, or 7-pentacosene (7P) [7P]s and [7P]m. D. melanogaster females display 7,11-heptacosadiene (7,11HD) as the major compound: [7,11HD]m, or 5,9-heptacosadiene (5,9HD): [5,9HD]m. The [7P]s, [7P]m and [5,9HD]m are mainly present in central Africa. A significant correlation was found between latitude and the proportion of compounds with 23 and 25 carbon atoms, especially 7T and 7P in both sexes of D. melanogaster. [7P]m type of D. melanogaster, characterized with an excess of C25 compounds, presents a higher resistance against desiccation than [7T]m type, where C23 compounds are more abundant. These differences can be correlated with calculated HC fusion temperatures. Moreover, increasing the breeding temperature from 18 to 29 degrees C induces in D. melanogaster males an increase in 25C compounds and a decrease in 23C compounds, but the opposite effect in D. simulans. A mathematical model of biosynthesis, based on kinetics of elongation and decarboxylation enzymes, suggests that a simple variation of the efficiency of an elongation enzyme may account for the differences observed between the [7T]m and [7P]m types of D. melanogaster and [7T]s and [7P]s types D. simulans. Finally on the basis of the geographical distribution of the HC types of both Drosophila species, an evolutionary dispersal pathway is proposed and discussed in relation to the environment and reproductive behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Alkenes / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature
  • Breeding
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Dehydration
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Geography
  • Hydrocarbons / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Sex Factors
  • Species Specificity
  • Temperature


  • Alkenes
  • Hydrocarbons
  • 7-tricosene
  • Carbon
  • 7-pentacosene