Convergent evolution of a reproductive trait through distinct developmental mechanisms in Drosophila

Dev Biol. 2012 Dec 1;372(1):120-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2012.09.014. Epub 2012 Sep 26.


Convergent morphologies often arise due to similar selective pressures in independent lineages. It is poorly understood whether the same or different developmental genetic mechanisms underlie such convergence. Here we show that independent evolution of a reproductive trait, ovariole number, has resulted from changes in distinct developmental mechanisms, each of which may have a different underlying genetic basis in Drosophila. Ovariole number in Drosophila is species-specific, highly variable, and largely under genetic control. Convergent changes in Drosophila ovariole number have evolved independently within and between species. We previously showed that the number of a specific ovarian cell type, terminal filament (TF) cells, determines ovariole number. Here we examine TF cell development in different Drosophila lineages that independently evolved a significantly lower ovariole number than the D. melanogaster Oregon R strain. We show that in these Drosophila lineages, reduction in ovariole number occurs primarily through variations in one of two different developmental mechanisms: (1) reduced number of somatic gonad precursors (SGP cells) specified during embryogenesis; or (2) alterations of somatic gonad cell morphogenesis and differentiation in larval life. Mutations in the D. melanogaster Insulin Receptor (InR) alter SGP cell number but not ovarian morphogenesis, while targeted loss of function of bric-à-brac 2 (bab2) affects morphogenesis without changing SGP cell number. Thus, evolution can produce similar ovariole numbers through distinct developmental mechanisms, likely controlled by different genetic mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Larva
  • Morphogenesis / genetics
  • Ovary / cytology
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • Phenotype
  • Receptor, Insulin / genetics
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • BAB2 protein, Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Receptor, Insulin