Abstracts (coauthor)

Quick adaptation to a new environment erases signature of history in natural populations

Author(s): Fragata, I, Simões P, Lopes-Cunha M, Lima M, Kellen B, Bárbaro M, Santos J, Santos M, Matos M


In a world where human activity is changing the climate and habitats at a fast pace it is fundamental to understand how much and how quickly can species adapt. In the last few years we have witnessed the evolutionary response of various species to the effects of global warming. One such case is Drosophila subobscura, which presents clinal variation for body size and inversions, across three continents. Recent evidence shows that temporal changes are occurring in the clinal variation as a response to global warming, with northern populations becoming more similar to southern ones. Both local adaptation and gene flow may be involved, the latter possibly overcoming historical constraints. In this study we propose to measure the contributions of history and selection when populations initially differentiated in Nature are under a similar selective pressure, in order to test if the uniform selection erases prior genetic differences, even in the absence of gene flow. We used as scenario the adaptation to a new, common environment of three populations of Drosophila subobscura initially differentiated along the European latitudinal cline. Quick evolutionary response was observed in all foundations leading to full convergence. All foundations converged to the same adaptive peak, although at different rates and through different paths, suggesting an overall smooth fitness landscape. We concluded that although history had a strong effect during the initial generations, selection quickly overcame it, especially in fitness related traits. The fast loss of differentiation shows that, even in the absence of gene flow adaptation to a common environment can erase the variation observed in nature, a finding that raises concerns in Conservation terms.


Chromosomal inversion clines paralleling the long standing ones in native Palaearctic populations of Drosophila subobscura evolved swiftly after this species invaded the Americas in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, the new clines did not consistently continue to converge on the Old World baseline. Our recent survey of Chilean populations of D. subobscura shows that inversion clines have faded or even changed sign with latitude. Here we investigate the hypothesis that this fading of inversion clines might be due to the Bogert effect; namely, that flies’ thermoregulatory behavior has eventually compensated for environmental variation in temperature, thus buffering selection on thermal-related traits. We show that latitudinal divergence in behavioral thermoregulation has evolved in Chile for females, with higher latitude flies having a lower mean of thermal preference. Plastic responses in thermal preference also lessen latitudinal thermal variation because flies developed at colder temperatures prefer warmer microclimates. Our results are consistent with the idea that active behavioral thermoregulation might buffer environmental variation and reduce the potential impact of thermal selection on other traits as chromosomal arrangements.

The fate of chromosomal inversion polymorphism during adaptation to a novel environment

Author(s): Simões, P, Fragata I, Lopes-Cunha M, Lima M, Kellen B, Bárbaro M, Santos J, Santos M, Matos M


Chromosomal inversions are widespread in Drosophila with strong evidence supporting an adaptive cause for the evolution and maintenance of inversion polymorphisms. One emblematic example of the adaptive role associated with inversions is the repeatable clinal variation in inversions frequencies in different continents as happens in Drosophila subobscura. More recently, it has been found that these inversion polymorphisms are shifting as a response to global warming. Both local adaptation and gene flow may be involved, the latter possibly overcoming historical constraints. Nevertheless, it is still unclear what forces are important in shaping the evolution of inversion polymorphisms. An approach to this issue is to study the evolutionary dynamics of chromosomal inversions of populations initially differentiated along a cline, during adaptation to a novel, common environment in the absence of gene flow. We use this strategy analyzing laboratory adaptation in Drosophila subobscura founded from contrasting European latitudes. Will natural selection in the new environment overcome the initial historical differences, promoting convergence of inversion frequencies? During the first 25 generations of adaptation to a common environment we found that the polymorphism of chromosomal inversions was gradually reduced in all populations. We also found persistent differentiation between populations from contrasting latitudes, though these differences reduced with increasing generations in the new environment. While genetic drift seems to play an important role in inversion frequency changes, we also found consistent increase in frequency of specific inversions (initially in low frequencies) across replicate populations, which suggests that selection also played a role. Altogether this study indicates that, in the absence of gene flow, inversion polymorphism evolves under a balance of selection and genetic drift with historical constraints also playing an important role.


Clinal variation for wing size and shape as well as for chromosomal inversion frequencies has been found in Drosophila subobscura from Europe as well as North and South America. Particularly it has been reported that standard arrangements increase in frequency towards higher latitudes, where flies are also bigger. In the New World the rapid evolution of body size clines as a follow up of clinal evolution of inversions, suggested that the wing traits cline had been driven by the inversion polymorphism. Previous studies, in favor of this hypothesis, found an intra-population association between wing traits (size and shape) and standard chromosomal inversions. Nevertheless, it was also found that the association (for shape) or details of it (for size) had opposite signs in one European population (Adraga) and one South American population (Puerto Montt). This is probably due to a bottleneck effect following the colonization of the Americas. Despite this interesting finding it is still unknown if this is a generalized difference between continents. To tackle this question we here tested for the consistency of the association between wing traits and inversions in three populations along the cline of Europe as well as South America. Surprisingly we found no clear association between wing size and the number of standard inversions in either continent. On the other hand, we confirmed that the previously reported negative association between wing shape and standard dose of Puerto Montt spread with latitude through other South America populations. This is not in agreement with the positive sign of the cline for both wing shape and inversions. Overall and contrary to previous indications, this study suggests that the inversion and wing clines in D. subobscura have evolved independently from each other.


Climate change is already impacting the distribution and behavior of many species. Nonetheless, population genetic changes in response to global warming have been observed only for a few species. This is the case of Drosophila subobscura, a native Palearctic species that harbors a rich chromosomal inversion polymorphism with “warm climate” inversions increasing in frequency worldwide. However, the selective process that maintains inversions in populations is not clear yet. The two main hypotheses differ in how the genetic content of inversions varies along a geographical gradient; the local adaptation hypothesis states that an inversion will have the same genetic content in all populations, while the coadaptation model suggests that in each population the genetic content will be different. In order to elucidate which model is more suitable for D. subobscura, we have analyzed ten genes -six of them are candidates for thermal adaptation- located on the longest and inversion richest chromosome O of the species. The most frequent chromosome arrangements in two Spanish populations along a latitudinal gradient were analyzed. No within-inversion genetic differences were detected among populations, which suggest that the gene content along the gradient is rather constant for the various gene arrangements. Although gene flux between different inversions (either by gene conversion or double crossover) was detected, significant genetic differentiation among inversions for all genes mapped within the inverted fragments of the chromosome was found.


Chairman: Octávio S. Paulo
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XIV Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology

Organization Team
Department of Animal Biology (DBA)
Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon
P-1749-016 Lisbon


Computational Biology & Population Genomics Group