While some of the genes potentially involved in maintaining reproductive isolation have been recently identified, the normal functions of these genes—outside of reproductive isolation—have remained unclear. A study in the July 2 Sciencereports an analysis of one such gene, the hybrid sterility gene Odysseus in Drosophila, revealing that it weakly affects sperm production and is nonessential, even though it strongly effects hybrid sterility.

"This is a beautiful piece of work, as it shows that the power of modern molecular genetics can be applied, in its fullest, to the problem of speciation," said Rama Singh, professor of biology at McMaster University, who was not involved in the study by Sha Sun and colleagues from the University of Chicago.

The work grew out of analysis of the Drosophila mauritiana gene Odysseus (OdsH), which causes male sterility when crossed—co-introgressed—into the closely related species D. simulans. This suggests...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!