Genetic covariances promote climatic adaptation in Australian Drosophila

Authors: Sandra Hangartner, Clementine Lasne, Carla M Sgrò, Tim Connallon, and Keyne Monro

Published in: Evolution


Evolutionary potential for adaptation hinges upon the orientation of genetic variation for traits under selection, captured by the additive genetic variance‐covariance matrix (G), as well as the evolutionary stability of G. Yet studies that assess both the stability of G and its alignment with selection are extraordinarily rare.

We evaluated the stability of G in three Drosophila melanogaster populations that have adapted to local climatic conditions along a latitudinal cline. We estimated population- and sex-specific G matrices for wing size and three climatic stress-resistance traits that diverge adaptively along the cline. To determine how G affects evolutionary potential within these populations, we used simulations to quantify how well G aligns with the direction of trait divergence along the cline (as a proxy for the direction of local selection) and how genetic covariances between traits and sexes influence this alignment.

We found that G was stable across the cline, showing no significant divergence overall, or in sex-specific subcomponents, among populations. G also aligned well with the direction of clinal divergence, with genetic covariances strongly elevating evolutionary potential for adaptation to climatic extremes. These results suggest that genetic covariances between both traits and sexes should significantly boost evolutionary responses to environmental change.


Hangartner S, Lasne C, Sgrò CM, Connallon T, Monro K (2020) Genetic covariances promote climatic adaptation in Australian Drosophila. Evolution PDF DOI