Experimental evolution of alkaloid tolerance in sibling Drosophila species with different degrees of specialization
PADRO, JULIAN; DE PANIS DIEGO; VRDOLJAK JUAN E; MILLA CARMONA PABLO; BETINA COLINES; HASSON ESTEBAN; SOTO IGNACIO M.
D. buzzatii and D. koepferae are sibling species with marked ecological differences related to their patterns of host exploitation. D. buzzatii is a polyphagous species with a sub-cosmopolitan distribution, while D. koepferae is endemic to the mountain plateaus of the Andes, where it exploits alkaloidiferous columnar cacti as primary hosts. We use experimental evolution to study the phenotypic response of these cactophilic Drosophila, when confronting directional selection to cactus chemical defenses for 20 generations. Flies adapted to cactus diets also experienced higher viability on alkaloid-enriched media, suggesting the selection of adaptive genetic variation for chemical-stress tolerance. The more generalist species D. buzzatii showed a rapid adaptive response to moderate levels of secondary metabolites whereas the columnar cacti specialist D. koepferae tended to maximize fitness under harder conditions. The evolutionary dynamic of fitness-related traits suggested the implication of metabolic efficiency as a key mediator in the adaptive response to chemical stress. Although we found no evidence of adaptation costs accompanying specialization, our results suggest the involvement of compensatory evolution. Overall, our study proposes that differential adaptation to secondary metabolites may contribute to varying degrees of host specialization, favoring niche partitioning among these closely related species.