Sex-linked genes and species differences in Lepidoptera

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  • Abstract: I review reports on the genetic basis for species differences in the Lepidoptera. In the six best-studied species complexes, more than half of all ecological, behavioral, or physiological differences among species are controlled by X-linked genes. Because Lepidoptera have about 30 pairs of chromosomes, this finding clearly indicates strong bias toward X-linkage of genes for species differences. The proportion of X-linked species differences ranges from complete X-linkage in Colias butterflies, to almost none in Yponomeuta moths. Four other complexes all have at least one X-linked gene that is crucial to species differences, including the Choristoneura fumiferana Clemens, Papilio glaucus L., and Papilio machaon L. species groups, and Ostrinia nubilalis Hubner pheromone strains. The mechanisms that account for this phenomenon are open to speculation. Nonetheless, an interesting implication of disproportionate X-linkage is that reproductive isolation may frequently arise by selection on linkage complexes, rather than as a random byproduct of evolution in geographically isolated populations. If confirmed, the bias toward X-linked species differences may also help efforts to find characters that distinguish host races and sibling species, as well as provide an avenue by which genes crucial to speciation can be more easily mapped and characterized at the molecular level.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 1994 Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Entomological Society of Canada. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Sperling, F. A. H. (1994). Sex-linked genes and species differences in Lepidoptera. Canadian Entomologist, 126(3), 807-818.