Mitochondrial DNA phylogenies for the Drosophila obscura group

Jennifer M. Gleason, Adalgisa Caccone, Etsuko N. Moriyama, Kevin P. White, Jeffrey R. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Species belonging to the obscura group of the genus Drosophila have long held a central position in evolutionary studies, especially in experimental population genetics. Despite the considerable amount of accumulated knowledge, many of the phylogenetic relationships of the species in the group remain unclean. Here we present DNA sequence data for the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I (COI) for 13 species native to both the Old and New Worlds. We combine these data with seven other mitochondrial gene sequences from previous studies, for a total of over 3 kb per species. Strongly supported conclusions include: (1) the two North American subgroups, pseudoobscura and affinis, are each monophyletic; and (2) among Eurasian species two unambiguous clades are identified, one containing D. tristis, D. ambigua, and D. obscura and the other containing D. guanche, D. subobscura, and D. madeirensis. Constructing firm hypotheses connecting these four major clades is problematic with all datasets. Major ambiguities are the number of invasions giving rise to the North American obscura species and the relationships among the Eurasian species. The inadequacy of the mtDNA data to resolve these ambiguities does not reside in lack of changes; the transversions-only parsimony tree has 283 informative characters. Rather, the problems are likely intrinsic to the history of the group: while radiating in temperate Eurasia, North America was colonized once or twice, followed by one or two radiations in the New World.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-440
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytochrome oxidase I
  • Drosophila obscura group
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • molecular phylogenies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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