Quantitative genetic analysis suggests causal association between cuticular hydrocarbon composition and desiccation survival in Drosophila melanogaster

Heredity (Edinb). 2011 Jan;106(1):68-77. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2010.40. Epub 2010 Apr 14.


Survival to low relative humidity is a complex adaptation, and many repeated instances of evolution to desiccation have been observed among Drosophila populations and species. One general mechanism for desiccation resistance is Cuticular Hydrocarbon (CHC) melting point. We performed the first Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) map of population level genetic variation in desiccation resistance in D. melanogaster. Using a panel of Recombinant Inbred Lines (RILs) derived from a single natural population, we mapped QTL in both sexes throughout the genome. We found that in both sexes, CHCs correlated strongly with desiccation resistance. At most desiccation resistance loci there was a significant association between CHCs and desiccation resistance of the sort predicted from clinal patterns of CHC variation and biochemical properties of lipids. This association was much stronger in females than males, perhaps because of greater overall abundance of CHCs in females, or due to correlations between CHCs used for waterproofing and sexual signalling in males. CHC evolution may be a common mechanism for desiccation resistance in D. melanogaster. It will be interesting to compare patterns of CHC variation and desiccation resistance in species which adapt to desiccation, and rainforest restricted species which cannot.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Desiccation*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / chemistry*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Pleiotropy
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Male
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics*


  • Hydrocarbons