Cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) are hydrophobic compounds deposited on the arthropod cuticle that are of functional significance with respect to stress tolerance, social interactions and mating dynamics. We characterized CHC profiles in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster at five levels: across a latitudinal transect in the eastern United States, as a function of developmental temperature during culture, across seasonal time in replicate years, and as a function of rapid evolution in experimental mesocosms in the field. Furthermore, we also characterized spatial and temporal changes in allele frequencies for SNPs in genes that are associated with the production and chemical profile of CHCs. Our data demonstrate a striking degree of parallelism for clinal and seasonal variation in CHCs in this taxon; CHC profiles also demonstrate significant plasticity in response to rearing temperature, and the observed patterns of plasticity parallel the spatiotemporal patterns observed in nature. We find that these congruent shifts in CHC profiles across time and space are also mirrored by predictable shifts in allele frequencies at SNPs associated with CHC chain length. Finally, we observed rapid and predictable evolution of CHC profiles in experimental mesocosms in the field. Together, these data strongly suggest that CHC profiles respond rapidly and adaptively to environmental parameters that covary with latitude and season, and that this response reflects the process of local adaptation in natural populations of D. melanogaster.
Keywords: Drosophila; cuticular hydrocarbons; experimental evolution; spatiotemporal variation; thermal plasticity.
© 2016 European Society For Evolutionary Biology. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2016 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.