Testing evolutionary hypotheses about species borders: patterns of genetic variation towards the southern borders of two rainforest Drosophila and a related habitat generalist Academic Article uri icon


  • Several evolutionary hypotheses help explain why only some species adapt readily to new conditions and expand distributions beyond borders, but there is limited evidence testing these hypotheses. In this study, we consider patterns of neutral (microsatellite) and quantitative genetic variation in traits in three species of Drosophila from the montium species group in eastern Australia. We found little support for restricted or asymmetrical gene flow in any species. In rainforest-restricted Drosophila birchii , there was evidence of selection for increased desiccation and starvation resistance towards the southern border, and a reduction in genetic diversity in desiccation resistance at this border. No such patterns existed for Drosophila bunnanda , which has an even more restricted distribution. In the habitat generalist Drosophila serrata , there was evidence for geographic selection for wing size and development time, although clinal patterns for increased cold and starvation resistance towards the southern border could not be differentiated from neutral expectations. These findings suggest that borders in these species are not limited by low overall genetic variation but instead in two of the species reflect patterns of selection and genetic variability in key traits limiting borders.


  • van Heerwaarden, Belinda
  • Kellermann, Vanessa
  • Schiffer, Michele
  • Blacket, Mark
  • Sgrò, Carla M
  • Hoffmann, Ary A

publication date

  • April 22, 2009