Variation in the rate of convergent evolution: adaptation to a laboratory environment in Drosophila subobscura


Margarida Matos , Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Dep. Zool. Antrop., Fac. Ciências Univ. Lisboa, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal. Tel.: (351)217500000; Fax: (351) 21 7500028; e-mail:


Adaptation to novel environments is a central issue in evolutionary biology. One important question is the prevalence of convergence when different populations adapt to the same or similar environments. We investigated this by comparing two studies, 6 years apart, of laboratory adaptation of populations of Drosophila subobscura founded from the same natural location. In both studies several life-history traits were periodically assayed for the first 14 generations of laboratory adaptation, as well as later generations, and compared with established, laboratory, control populations. The results indicated: (1) a process of convergence for all traits; (2) differences between the two studies in the pattern and rate of convergence; (3) dependence of the evolutionary rates on initial differentiation. The differences between studies might be the result of the differences in the founder populations and/or changes in the lab environment. In either case, the results suggest that microevolution is highly sensitive to genetic and environmental conditions.