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Genetic analysis of body color phenotypes in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster: supporting evidence through laboratory-selected dark and light strains

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In the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster Meigen, 1830, abdominal melanisation varies in a quantitative manner, but little attention has been paid to the genetic basis of different phenotypic classes and their ecological significance in the wild populations. Laboratory-selected darker and lighter body color strains were used for determining the genetic basis of body color phenotypes. Based on such genetic characterization, we interpreted body color variation of wild flies collected along a latitudinal gradient. Our results are interesting in several respects. First, laboratory selection produced lighter females and also lighter males, in contradiction of the well-known sexual dimorphism in D. melanogaster. The laboratory-selected darker and lighter strains showed lack of phenotypic plasticity, whereas F1 flies from reciprocal crosses showed significant levels of phenotypic plasticity. Second, for both sexes, F2 phenotypic classes resulting from reciprocal crosses between selected darker and lighter strains fit a two-locus model with a stronger maternal effect in males than in females. Third, changes in continuously varying abdominal melanisation of wild-caught flies were sorted into phenotypic bins of body color phenotypic classes and such data on geographical populations of D. melanogaster are consistent with climatic selection. Thus, we may suggest that for ecological genetic studies, greater emphasis should be laid on the analysis of bins of phenotypic classes of body melanisation in laboratory and wild populations of D. melanogaster.
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