Drosophila falleni belongs to the quinaria species group, whose species vary considerably in patterns of wing and abdominal pigmentation. Drosophila falleni itself exhibits substantial variation among wild flies in abdominal spotting patterns. A selection experiment revealed that natural populations of D. falleni harbor high levels of genetic variation for spot number; in 10 generations of selection modal spot number within populations declined from 18 (the modal number in wild-caught females) to as low as zero. Rearing flies at different temperatures shows that some of the variation among wild flies is likely to reflect variation in the environmental conditions under which they developed. Fitness assays did not reveal any cost of reduced spot number with respect to development time, adult survival, or female fecundity. However, spotless flies were almost twice as susceptible to infection by the nematode parasite Howardula aoronymphium. Thus, selection exerted by nematode parasites may influence pigmentation patterns and other, genetically correlated traits in natural populations D. falleni.
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Vol. 58 • No. 3