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Keywords:

  • Drosophila ;
  • embryonic lethality;
  • Haldane's rule;
  • postzygotic isolation

Abstract

The study of the morphological defects unique to interspecific hybrids can reveal which developmental pathways have diverged between species. Drosophila melanogaster and D. santomea diverged more than 10 million years ago, and when crossed produce sterile adult females. Adult hybrid males are absent from all interspecific crosses. We aimed to determine the fate of these hybrid males. To do so, we tracked the development of hybrid females and males using classic genetic markers and techniques. We found that hybrid males die predominantly as embryos with severe segment-specification defects while a large proportion of hybrid females embryos hatch and survive to adulthood. In particular, we show that most male embryos show a characteristic abdominal ablation phenotype, not observed in either parental species. This suggests that sex-specific embryonic developmental defects eliminate hybrid males in this interspecific cross. The study of the developmental abnormalities that occur in hybrids can lead to the understanding of cryptic molecular divergence between species sharing a conserved body plan.