, Volume 90, Issue 2-3, pp 201-215

Micro-evolution in a wine cellar population: An historical perspective

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Abstract

The population ofDrosophila melanogaster inside the wine cellar of Chateau Tahbilk of Victoria, Australia was found by McKenzie and Parsons (1974) to have undergone microevolution for greater alcohol tolerance when compared to the neighboring population outside the cellar. This triggered additional studies at Tahbilk, and at other wine cellars throughout the world. The contributions and interactions of researchers and the development of ideas on the ecology and genetics of this unique experimental system are traced. Although the ADH-F/ADH-S polymorphism was found to be maintained by selection in the Tahbilk populations, the selection is not significantly associated with alcohol tolerance. The environment inside the Tahbilk wine cellar is not as rich in ethanol as was originally anticipated, and selection that affects the alcohol dehydrogenase polymorphism may be more concerned with the relative efficiency with which ethanol is used as a nutrient byD. melanogaster. The synthesis and modification of lipids, particularly in membranes, appears to be important to alcohol tolerance. The studies of the Tahbilk population are at a crossroad. New experimental approaches promise to provide the keys to the selection that maintains the alcohol dehydrogenase polymorphism, and to factors that are important to alcohol tolerance and stress adaptation. From these research foundations at Tahbilk very significant contributions to our future understanding of the genetic processes of evolution can be made.