Evolution of sex-specific wing shape at the widerwing locus in four species of Nasonia

Heredity (Edinb). 2010 Mar;104(3):260-9. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2009.146. Epub 2010 Jan 20.


How do morphological differences between species evolve at the genetic level? This study investigates the genetic basis of recent divergence in male wing size between species of the model parasitoid wasp Nasonia. The forewings of flightless Nasonia vitripennis males are 2.3 times smaller than males of their flighted sister species N. giraulti. We describe a major genetic contributor to this difference: the sex-specific widerwing (wdw) locus, which we have backcrossed from N. giraulti into N. vitripennis and mapped to an 0.9 megabase region of chromosome 1. This introgression of wdw from large-winged N. giraulti into small-winged N. vitripennis increases male but not female forewing width by 30% through wing region-specific size changes. Indirect evidence suggests that cell number changes across the wing explain the majority of the wdw wing-size difference, whereas changes in cell size are important in the center of the wing. Introgressing the same locus from the other species in the genus, N. longicornis and N. oneida, into N. vitripennis produces intermediate and large male wing sizes. To our knowledge, this is the first study to introgress a morphological quantitative trait locus (QTL) from multiple species into a common genetic background. Epistatic interactions between wdw and other QTL are also identified by introgressing wdw from N. vitripennis into N. giraulti. The main findings are (1) the changes at wdw have sex- and region-specific effects and could, therefore, be regulatory, (2) the wdw locus seems to be a co-regulator of cell size and cell number, and (3) the wdw locus has evolved different wing width effects in three species.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Insect Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Wasps / anatomy & histology
  • Wasps / genetics*
  • Wasps / growth & development*
  • Wings, Animal / anatomy & histology
  • Wings, Animal / growth & development*


  • Insect Proteins