The large X-effect on secondary sexual characters and the genetics of variation in sex comb tooth number in Drosophila subobscura.
Genetic studies of secondary sexual traits provide insights into whether and how selection drove their divergence among populations, and these studies often focus on the fraction of variation attributable to genes on the X-chromosome. However, such studies may sometimes misinterpret the amount of variation attributable to the X-chromosome if using only simple reciprocal F1 crosses, or they may presume sexual selection has affected the observed phenotypic variation. We examined the genetics of a secondary sexual trait, male sex comb size, in Drosophila subobscura. This species bears unusually large sex combs for its species group, and therefore, this trait may be a good candidate for having been affected by natural or sexual selection. We observed significant heritable variation in number of teeth of the distal sex comb across strains. While reciprocal F1 crosses seemed to implicate a disproportionate X-chromosome effect, further examination in the F2 progeny showed that transgressive autosomal effects inflated the estimate of variation associated with the X-chromosome in the F1. Instead, the X-chromosome appears to confer the smallest contribution of all major chromosomes to the observed phenotypic variation. Further, we failed to detect effects on copulation latency or duration associated with the observed phenotypic variation. Overall, this study presents an examination of the genetics underlying segregating phenotypic variation within species and illustrates two common pitfalls associated with some past studies of the genetic basis of secondary sexual traits.
Mittleman, BE; Manzano-Winkler, B; Hall, JB; Korunes, KL; Noor, MAF
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