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Colonization of the Americas by Drosophila subobscura: lethal-gene allelism and association with chromosomal arrangements.

  • Author(s): Mestres, F;
  • Serra, L;
  • Ayala, FJ
  • et al.

Drosophila subobscura is a Palearctic species that has recently colonized the Americas. It was first found in 1978 in Puerto Montt, Chile, and in 1982 in Port Townsend, WA. The colonization and rapid expansion of the species in western South and North America provides distinctive opportunities for investigating the process of evolution in action. The inversion polymorphism in the O chromosome from populations of central California and northern Washington, separated by 1300 km, corresponds to a previously observed latitudinal cline, also observed in Europe. Recessive lethal genes are not randomly distributed among the chromosomal arrangements. The incidence of lethal allelism is high, yielding unrealistically low estimates of the effective size of these populations (on the order of 1000 individuals). The high incidence of lethal allelism is likely to be a consequence of the low number of the American colonizers (on the order of 10-100 individuals), but the persistence of the allelism over several years suggests that some lethal-carrying chromosomes may be heterotic owing to shared associations between lethal and other genes.

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