Are autosomal sex-determining factors of the housefly (Musca domestica) spreading north?

Genet Res (Camb). 2008 Apr;90(2):157-65. doi: 10.1017/S001667230700907X.


Multiple sex-determining factors have been found in natural populations of the housefly, Musca domestica. Their distribution seems to follow a geographical cline. The 'standard' system, with a male-determining factor, M, located on the Y chromosome, prevails at higher latitudes and altitudes. At lower latitudes and altitudes M factors have also been found on any of the five autosomes. Such populations often also harbour a dominant autosomal factor, FD, which induces female development even in the presence of several M factors. Autosomal M factors were first observed some 50 years ago. It has been hypothesized that following their initial appearance, they are spreading northwards, replacing the standard XY system, but this has never been systematically investigated. To scrutinize this hypothesis, we here compare the current distribution of autosomal M factors in continental Europe, on a transect running from Germany to southern Italy, with the distribution reported 25 years ago. Additionally, we analysed the frequencies of the FD factor, which has not been done before for European populations. In contrast to earlier predictions, we do not find a clear change in the distribution of sex-determining factors: as 25 years ago, only the standard XY system is present in the north, while autosomal M factors and the FD factor are prevalent in Italy. We discuss possible causes for this apparently stable polymorphism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Houseflies / genetics*
  • Houseflies / physiology
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Determination Processes*
  • Y Chromosome / genetics