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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Hemiclonal analysis of interacting phenotypes in male and female Drosophila melanogaster

Hannah ME Tennant*, Erin E Sonser and Tristan AF Long

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5, Canada

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:95  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-95

Published: 3 May 2014



Identifying the sources of variation in mating interactions between males and females is important because this variation influences the strength and/or the direction of sexual selection that populations experience. While the origins and effects of variation in male attractiveness and ornamentation have received much scrutiny, the causes and consequences of intraspecific variation in females have been relatively overlooked. We used cytogenetic cloning techniques developed for Drosophila melanogaster to create “hemiclonal” males and females with whom we directly observed sexual interaction between individuals of different known genetic backgrounds and measured subsequent reproductive outcomes. Using this approach, we were able to quantify the genetic contribution of each mate to the observed phenotypic variation in biologically important traits including mating speed, copulation duration, and subsequent offspring production, as well as measure the magnitude and direction of intersexual genetic correlation between female choosiness and male attractiveness.


We found significant additive genetic variation contributing to mating speed that can be attributed to male genetic identity, female genetic identity, but not their interaction. Furthermore we found that phenotypic variation in copulation duration had a significant male-associated genetic component. Female genetic identity and the interaction between male and female genetic identity accounted for a substantial amount of the observed phenotypic variation in egg size. Although previous research predicts a trade-off between egg size and fecundity, this was not evident in our results. We found a strong negative genetic correlation between female choosiness and male attractiveness, a result that suggests a potentially important role for sexually antagonistic alleles in sexual selection processes in our population.


These results further our understanding of sexual selection because they identify that genetic identity plays a significant role in phenotypic variation in female behaviour and fecundity. This variation may be potentially due to ongoing sexual conflict found between the sexes for interacting phenotypes. Our unexpected observation of a negative correlation between female choosiness and male attractiveness highlights the need for more explicit theoretical models of genetic covariance to investigate the coevolution of female choosiness and male attractiveness.

Sexual selection; Mate choice; Female choosiness; Male attractiveness; Drosophila melanogaster; Hemiclonal analysis; Interacting phenotypes; Mating speed