The extent of genetic variation in fitness and its components and genetic variation's dependence on environmental conditions remain key issues in evolutionary biology. We present measurements of genetic variation in preadult viability in a laboratory-adapted population of Drosophila melanogaster, made at four different densities. By crossing flies heterozygous for a wild-type chromosome and one of two different balancers (TM1, TM2), we measure both heterozygous (TM1/ , TM2/ ) and homozygous ( / ) viability relative to a standard genotype (TM1/TM2). Forty wild-type chromosomes were tested, of which 10 were chosen to be homozygous viable. The mean numbers produced varied significantly between chromosome lines, with an estimated between-line variance in loge numbers of 0.013. Relative viabilities also varied significantly across chromosome lines, with a variance in loge homozygous viability of 1.76 and of loge heterozygous viability of 0.165. The between-line variance for numbers emerging increased with density, from 0.009 at lowest density to 0.079 at highest. The genetic variance in relative viability increases with density, but not significantly. Overall, the effects of different chromosomes on relative viability were remarkably consistent across densities and across the two heterozygous genotypes (TM1, TM2). The 10 lines that carried homozygous viable wild-type chromosomes produced significantly more adults than the 30 lethal lines at low density and significantly fewer adults at the highest density. Similarly, there was a positive correlation between heterozygous viability and mean numbers at low density, but a negative correlation at high density.
Corresponding Editor: T. Kawecki