A single gene affects both ecological divergence and mate choice in Drosophila.
Evolutionary changes in traits involved in both ecological divergence and mate choice may produce reproductive isolation and speciation. However, there are few examples of such dual traits, and the genetic and molecular bases of their evolution have not been identified. We show that methyl-branched cuticular hydrocarbons (mbCHCs) are a dual trait that affects both desiccation resistance and mate choice in Drosophila serrata . We identify a fatty acid synthase mFAS ( CG3524 ) responsible for mbCHC production in Drosophila and find that expression of mFAS is undetectable in oenocytes (cells that produce CHCs) of a closely related, desiccation-sensitive species, D. birchii , due in part to multiple changes in cis-regulatory sequences of mFAS . We suggest that ecologically influenced changes in the production of mbCHCs have contributed to reproductive isolation between the two species.