Background: In insects, like in most invertebrates, olfaction is the principal sensory modality, which provides animals with essential information for survival and reproduction. Odorant receptors are involved in this response, mediating interactions between an individual and its environment, as well as between individuals of the same or different species. The adaptive importance of odorant receptors renders them good candidates for having their variation shaped by natural selection.
Methodology/principal findings: We analyzed nucleotide variation in a subset of eight Or genes located on the 3L chromosomal arm of Drosophila melanogaster in a derived population of this species and also in a population of Drosophila pseudoobscura. Some heterogeneity in the silent polymorphism to divergence ratio was detected in the D. melanogaster/D. simulans comparison, with a single gene (Or67b) contributing ∼37% to the test statistic. However, no other signals of a very recent selective event were detected at this gene. In contrast, at the speciation timescale, the MK test uncovered the footprint of positive selection driving the evolution of two of the encoded proteins in both D. melanogaster--OR65c and OR67a--and D. pseudoobscura--OR65b1 and OR67c.
Conclusions: The powerful polymorphism/divergence approach provided evidence for adaptive evolution at a rather high proportion of the Or genes studied after relatively recent speciation events. It did not provide, however, clear evidence for very recent selective events in either D. melanogaster or D. pseudoobscura.