Substantial genetic variation exists in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster. This segregating variation includes alleles at different loci that interact to cause lethality or sterility (synthetic incompatibilities). Fitness epistasis in natural populations has important implications for speciation and the rate of adaptive evolution. To assess the prevalence of epistatic fitness interactions, we placed naturally occurring X chromosomes into genetic backgrounds derived from different geographic locations. Considerable amounts of synthetic incompatibilities were observed between X chromosomes and autosomes: greater than 44% of all combinations were either lethal or sterile. Sex-specific lethality and sterility were also tested to determine whether Haldane's rule holds for within-species variation. Surprisingly, we observed an excess of female sterility in genotypes that were homozygous, but not heterozygous, for the X chromosome. The recessive nature of these incompatibilities is similar to that predicted for incompatibilities underlying Haldane's rule. Our study also found higher levels of sterility and lethality for genomes that contain chromosomes from different geographical regions. These findings are consistent with the view that genomes are coadapted gene complexes and that geography affects the likelihood of epistatic fitness interactions.
© 2010 The Author(s). Journal compilation © 2010 The Society for the Study of Evolution.