Abdominal pigmentation pattern varies dramatically among the species of the Drosophila dunni subgroup across the islands of the Caribbean. Previously, we developed a quantitative measure of abdominal pigmentation to assess phenotypic variation within and between species of this group. In this paper, we use this quantitative measure in an interspecific genetic analysis to decipher the underlying genetic basis of pigmentation differences between one of the lightest and the darkest species in the group. Our analysis shows that pigmentation expression in different areas of the abdomen is under separate genetic control. For these different abdominal regions, we detected a wide range of genetic effects, including X-linked, autosomal additive, near single-gene dominant, and sex-specific effects. Combining these genetic results with our earlier phenotypic and phylogenetic analyses, we present a simple conceptual model to explain how change in the control of expression of pigmentation has evolved throughout the D. dunni subgroup.
Editor: L. Stevens