melanogaster species group

Drosophila melanogaster is one of the single most important model organisms in biology. The melanogaster species group has, in a similar fashion, served as a model system for studies of speciation, population genetics, molecular evolution, and the evolution of development (Krietman, 1983; Turelli and Orr, 2000; Turelli et al., 2001; Kopp and True, 2002a, 2002b). The first major taxonomic revision of this group, aside from its establishment by Sturtevant (1939), was done by Bock and Wheeler (1972). Since that time, a large number of species have been described for both the African and Asian-Pacific regions.

Recently, Schwaroch (2002) has generated a molecular phylogeny of this entire group. Kopp and True (2002a) have done a more targeted study of the Oriental subgroups, a large clade within the melanogaster species group (Ashburner, 1989, 2004). The results of both studies are quite congruent. For example, both suggest that the suzukii subgroup is not monophyletic. Kopp and True’s (2002a) phylogeny indicates that members of the suzukii subgroup form three lineages, two of which are related to the takahashii subgroup and another that is close to the elegans subgroup. Schawaroch’s (2002) results are similar. One species, D. lucipennis, is closely related to the elegans subgroup. Another suzukii lineage is related to the takahashii subgroup, a result also seen in Kopp and True (2002a). A third lineage, represented by D. biarmipes, shows an affiliation with the eugracilismelanogaster lineage.

A point of contention between the two studies is their placement of Drosophila eugracilis. Schawaroch (2002) places this species close to the melanogaster subgroup. Kopp and True (2002a), on the other hand, suggest that D. eugracilis is basal to all the other “Oriental subgroups” and that the melanogaster subgroup is sister to the suzukii- takahashii lineage. Kopp and True also included the rhopaloa subgroup as the sister taxon of the elegans- suzukii lineage. This species was not surveyed by Schawaroch (2002); instead, she sampled extensively within the ananassae and montium subgroups to give a more holistic picture of evolution within the entire melanogaster species group. The ananassae and montium subgroups are monophyletic sister taxa. These two large clades are the sister groups of the so-called “Oriental subgroups.”

(excerpted from Markow and O’Grady, 2006, Chapter 1)

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