Heritability of Two Morphological Characters Within and Among Natural Populations of Drosophila melanogaster
Jerry A. Coyne, Edward Beecham


Heritabilities of wing length and abdominal bristle number, as well as genetic correlations between these characters, were determined within and among populations of Drosophila melanogaster in nature. Substantial "natural" heritabilities were found when wild-caught flies from one population were compared to their laboratory-reared offspring. Natural heritabilities of bristle number approximated those derived from laboratory-raised parents and offspring, but wing length heritability was significantly lower in nature than in the laboratory. Among-population heritabilities, estimated by regressing population means of wild-caught flies against those of their laboratory-reared descendants, were close to 0.5. The genetic differentiation of populations was clinal with latitude, and was accompanied by significant geographic differences in the norms of reaction to temperature. These clines are similar to those reported on other continents and in other Drosophila species, and are almost certainly caused by natural selection. Genetic regressions between the characters reveal that the cline in bristle number may be a correlated response to geographic selection on wing length, but not vice versa. Our results indicate that there is a sizable genetic component to phenotypic variation within and among populations of D. melanogaster in nature.

  • Received February 19, 1987.
  • Accepted August 31, 1987.