Ejaculate-female coevolution in Drosophila mojavensis

Scott Pitnick, Gary T. Miller, Karin Schneider, Therese A. Markow

Abstract

Interspecific studies indicate that sperm morphology and other ejaculatory traits diverge more rapidly than other types of character in Drosophila and other taxa. This pattern has largely been attributed to postcopulatory sexual selection involving interaction between the sexes. Such divergence has been suggested to lead rapidly to reproductive isolation among populations and thus to be an ‘engine of speciation.’ Here, we test two critical predictions of this hypothesis: (i) there is significant variation in reproductive traits among incipient species; and (ii) divergence in interacting sex–specific traits exhibits a coevolutionary pattern among populations within a species, by examining geographical variation in Drosophila mojavensis, a species in the early stages of speciation. Significant among–population variation was identified in sperm length and female sperm–storage organ length, and a strong pattern of correlated evolution between these interacting traits was observed. In addition, crosses among populations revealed coevolution of male and female contributions to egg size. Support for these two important predictions confirms that coevolving internal characters that mediate successful reproduction may play an important part in speciation. The next step is to determine exactly what that role is.