Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 1-13

First online:

Molecular evolution inDrosophila and the higher diptera

II. A time scale for fly evolution
  • Stephen M. BeverleyAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, University of CaliforniaDepartment of Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
  • , Allan C. WilsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, University of California

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In this paper, we examine first the steadiness of the rate of evolutionary change in a larval hemolymph protein, LHP, in numerousDrosophila species. We estimated amino acid sequence divergence from immunological distances measured with the quantitative microcomplement fixation technique. Using tests not depending on knowledge of absolute times of divergence, we estimated the variance of the rate of evolutionary change to be at least 4 times as large as that for a process resembling radioactive decay. Thus, the rate of evolution of this protein is as uniform as that of vertebrate proteins. Our analysis indicates no acceleration of protein evolution in the lineages leading to Hawaiian drosophilines. Second, we give an explicit description of a procedure for calculating the absolute value of the mean rate of evolutionary change in this protein. This procedure is suggested for general use in calculating absolute rates of molecular evolution. The mean rate of evolution of LHP is about 1.2 immunological distance units per million years, which probably coreesponds to a unit evolutionary period of 4 million years; LHP thus evolves at a rate comparable to that of mammalian hemoglobins. Finally, we utilize the calibrated rate of LHP evolution to derive a time scale of evolution in the Drosophilidae and higher Diptera.

Key words

Fossils Biogeography Larval hemolymph protein Microcomplement fixation