From early allozyme work to recent genome-wide scans, many studies have reported associations between molecular markers and latitude. These geographic patterns are tantalizing because they hint at the possibility of identifying specific mutations responsible for climatic adaptation. Unfortunately, few studies have done so because these exciting first glances often prove extremely challenging to follow up. Many difficulties can hinder connecting genetic and phenotypic variation in this context, and without such links, distinguishing the action of spatially varying selection from the other evolutionary processes capable of generating these patterns can be quite thorny. Nevertheless, two papers in this issue report excellent progress in overcoming these obstacles and provide persuasive evidence supporting the involvement of specific natural variants in clinal adaptation of Drosophila melanogaster populations (Fig. 1). In the first paper, Paaby et al. (2010) describe replicated allele frequency clines for a coding polymorphism in the Insulin-like Receptor (InR) gene on two continents, findings that strongly point to selection acting at this locus and that likely reflect life history adaptation. McKechnie et al. (2010) report compelling functional evidence that cis-regulatory variation in the Dca (drosophila cold acclimation) gene contributes to an adaptive cline in wing size. Notably, these papers employ largely alternative and complementary approaches, and together they exemplify how diverse strategies may be interwoven to draw convincing connections between genotype, phenotype, and evolutionary process.


Figure 1. Drosophila melanogaster mating in the field. Credit: Annalise Paaby.

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