Rapid evolution of courtship song pattern in Drosophila willistoni sibling species

M. G. Ritchie*, J. M. Gleason

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Courtship behaviours may provide a more reliable means of identifying reproductively isolated taxa than traits such as morphology or many genetic markers. Here we describe the courtship songs of the Drosophila willistoni sibling species group, which consists of several species and subspecies. We find that song pattern is species‐specific, despite significant differences among strains within species. D. paulistorum has the most variable song pattern, which reflects this species' traditional subdivision into semispecies. All the other species could be unambiguously identified by song. The major differences among these species was in the interpulse interval, as has been found in other studies of fly song. However, the interpulse intervals of the species studied here were often multimodal. This was partly due to the presence of multiple song types within the courtship repertoire, but it also reflected changes in interpulse interval within a song type by some males. Unusually, some species had distinctively patterned variation in interpulse interval. Song must have evolved rapidly within the species complex, probably due to sexual selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-479
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995


  • courtship song
  • Drosophila
  • evolution
  • speciation


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