The courtship song of African Drosophila melanogaster


Mike Ritchie Department of Enviromental and Evolutionary Biology, University of St Andrews, Bute Medical Building, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9TS, UK. Tel.: +44 133 4463495; fax: +44 133 4463600; e-mail:


For many years it was thought that Drosophila melanogaster was relatively panmictic, without differentiation in the Mate Recognition System. Recent studies have demonstrated that flies from Africa vary in pheromones and assortative mating. Strains from Zimbabwe show strong sexual isolation from others. We show that the interpulse interval (IPI) of courtship song, an important mating signal, is unusually short among African flies. Zimbabwean flies have the shortest IPI, but there is no correlation with assortative mating, suggesting little direct role in sexual isolation. Chromosome replacements show that the IPI difference is largely due to genes on chromosome III, with significant interactions involving other chromosomes. Several traits potentially influencing sexual isolation among the melanogaster group of Drosophila seem to be localized to this chromosome. A concentration of important genetic differences might mean that the interaction effects reflect secondary coadaptation of the genetic background to changes associated with chromosome III.