Divergence among populations can occur via additive genetic effects and/or because of epistatic interactions among genes. Here we use line-cross analysis to compare the importance of epistasis in divergence among two sympatric Drosophila species from eastern Australia, one (D. serrata) distributed continuously and the other (D. birchii) confined to rainforest habitats that are often disjunct. For D. serrata, crosses indicated that development time and wing size differences were due to additive genetic effects, while for viability there were digenic epistatic effects. Crosses comparing geographically close populations as well as those involving the most geographically distant populations (including the southern species border) revealed epistatic interactions, whereas crosses at an intermediate distance showed no epistasis. In D. birchii, there was no evidence of epistasis for viability, although for development time and wing size there was epistasis in the cross between the most geographically diverged populations. Strong epistasis has not developed among the D. birchii populations, and this habitat specialist does not show stronger epistasis than D. serrata. Given that epistasis has been detected in crosses with other species from eastern Australia, including the recently introduced D. melanogaster, the results point to epistasis not being directly linked to divergence times among populations.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1