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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Playing Darwin. Part B. 20 years of domestication in Drosophila subobscura

  • Author(s): Santos, Marta
  • Fragata, Inês
  • Santos, Josiane
  • Simões, Pedro
  • Marques, Ana
  • Lima, Margarida
  • Matos, Margarida
  • et al.

Adaptation to a new environment (as well as its underlying mechanisms) is one of the most important topics in Evolutionary Biology. Understanding the adaptive process of natural populations to captivity is essential not only in general evolutionary studies but also in conservation programmes. Since 1990, the Group of Experimental Evolution (CBA/FCUL) has been performing long-term, real-time evolutionary studies, with the characterization of laboratory adaptation in populations of Drosophila subobscura founded in different times and from different locations. Initially, these experiments involved phenotypic assays and more recently were expanded to studies at the molecular level (microsatellite and chromosomal polymorphisms) and with different population sizes. Throughout these two decades, a clear pattern of evolutionary convergence to long-established laboratory populations has been consistently observed in several life-history traits. However, contingencies across foundations were also found during the adaptive process. In characters with complex evolutionary trajectories, the data suggested that the comparative method lacked predictive capacity relative to real-time evolutionary trajectories (experimental evolution). Microsatellite analysis revealed general similarity in gene diversity and allele number between studied populations, as well as an unclear association between genetic variability and evolutionary potential. Nevertheless, ongoing studies in all foundations are being carried out to further test this hypothesis. A comparison between recently introduced and long-term populations (founded from the same natural location) has shown higher degree of chromosomal polymorphism in recent ones. Finally, our findings suggest higher heterogeneity between small-sized populations, as well as a slower evolutionary rate in characters close to fitness (such as fecundity and mating behaviour). This comprehensive study is aimed at better understanding the processes and patterns underlying adaptation to captivity, as well as its genetic basis.

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