, Volume 139, Issue 4, pp 505-510

First online:

Condition dependence and the nature of genetic variation for male sex comb bristle number in Drosophila melanogaster

  • Abha AhujaAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McMaster University
  • , Scott De VitoAffiliated with
  • , Rama S. SinghAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McMaster University Email author 

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Genetic architecture of variation underlying male sex comb bristle number, a rapidly evolving secondary sexual character of Drosophila, was examined. First, in order to test for condition dependence, diet was manipulated in a set of ten Drosophila melanogaster full-sib families. We confirmed heightened condition dependent expression of sex comb bristle number and its female homologue (distal transverse row bristles) as compared to non-sex sternopleural bristles. Significant genotype by environment effects were detected for the sex traits indicating a genetic basis for condition dependence. Next we measured sex comb bristle number and sternopleural bristle number, as well as residual mass, a commonly used condition index, in a set of thirty half-sib families. Sire effect was not significant for sex comb and sternopleural bristle number, and we detected a strong dominance and/or maternal effect or X chromosome effect for both traits. A strong sire effect was detected for condition and its heritability was the highest as compared to sex comb and sternopleural bristles. We discuss our results in light of the rapid response to divergent artificial selection for sex comb bristle number reported previously. The nature of genetic variation for male sex traits continues to be an important unresolved issue in evolutionary biology.


Condition dependence Drosophila melanogaster Sex comb Condition Genetic variation