Genetics and the environment in interspecific competition: A study using the sibling species Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans

Philip W. Hedrick, Elizabeth King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The outcome of interspecific competition of two closely related species may depend upon genetic variation in the two species and the environment in which the experiment is carried out. Interspecific competition in the two sibling species, Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans, is usually investigated using longterm laboratory stocks that often have mutant markers that distinguish them. To examine competition in flies that genetically more closely resemble flies in nature, we utilized freshly caught wildtype isofemale lines of the two species collected at the same site in San Carlos, Mexico. Under ordinary laboratory conditions, D. melanogaster always won in competition. However, in hotter and drier conditions. D. simulans competed much more effectively. In these environmental conditions, there were genetic differences in competitive ability among lines with the outcome of competition primarily dependent upon the line of D. melanogaster used but in some cases also influenced by the line of D. simulans used. Differences in the measures of productivity and developmental time did not explain the differences in competitive daily among lines. This suggests that the outcome of competition was not due to differences in major fitness components among the isofemale lines but to some other attribute(s) that influenced competitive ability. When lines of flies were combined, the outcome of competition was generally consistent with competitive outcomes between pairs of lines. In several cases, the combination of lines performed better than the best of the constituent lines, suggesting that competitive ability was combined heterotically and that the total amount of genetic variation was important in the outcome of interspecific competition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-78
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 1996


  • Competition
  • Drosophila
  • Environment
  • Fitness
  • Genetic variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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