• Cactus;
  • courtship song;
  • desert;
  • Drosophila mojavensis;
  • GxE interaction;
  • QTL;
  • sexual isolation;
  • speciation

Few studies have examined genotype by environment (GxE) effects on premating reproductive isolation and associated behaviors, even though such effects may be common when speciation is driven by adaptation to different environments. In this study, mating success and courtship song differences among diverging populations of Drosophila mojavensis were investigated in a two-environment quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis. Baja California and mainland Mexico populations of D. mojavensis feed and breed on different host cacti, so these host plants were used to culture F2 males to examine host-specific QTL effects and GxE interactions influencing mating success and courtship songs. Linear selection gradient analysis showed that mainland females mated with males that produced songs with significantly shorter L(long)-IPIs, burst durations, and interburst intervals. Twenty-one microsatellite loci distributed across all five major chromosomes were used to localize effects of mating success, time to copulation, and courtship song components. Male courtship success was influenced by a single detected QTL, the main effect of cactus, and four GxE interactions, whereas time to copulation was influenced by three different QTLs on the fourth chromosome. Multiple-locus restricted maximum likelihood (REML) analysis of courtship song revealed consistent effects linked with the same fourth chromosome markers that influenced time to copulation, a number of GxE interactions, and few possible cases of epistasis. GxE interactions for mate choice and song can maintain genetic variation in populations, but alter outcomes of sexual selection and isolation, so signal evolution and reproductive isolation may be slowed in diverging populations. Understanding the genetics of incipient speciation in D. mojavensis clearly depends on cactus-specific expression of traits associated with courtship behavior and sexual isolation.