Cellular basis of wing size variation in Drosophila melanogaster: a comparison of latitudinal clines on two continents


Bas J. Zwaan E-mail: zwaan@rulsfb.leidenuniv.nl


We investigated the cellular basis of two extensive, continuous, latitudinal, genetic, body size clines of Drosophila melanogaster by measuring wing area and cell size in the wing blade of adult flies reared under standard, laboratory conditions. We report that the contribution of cell size to an Australian cline is much smaller than that to a South American cline. The data suggest that neither cell size nor cell number were the targets of selection, but rather wing area itself, or a trait closely related to it. We hypothesize that the differences between the continents were caused by differences in the initial pattern of genetic variation for the cell traits and/or by the direction of selection on the source populations of the clines. Despite large differences between continents in the cellular basis of the latitudinal variation, multiple regression analysis, using the individual variation within populations, showed that the relationship between cell size and cell number was changed with latitude in the same way in the two clines. The relative contribution of cell number to wing area variation increased with latitude, probably because of compensatory interactions with cell size as a consequence of the latitudinal increase in cell number. Our findings are discussed in relation to the cellular basis of evolutionary change in laboratory thermal selection lines and natural populations along latitudinal clines.