Sperm development, age and sex chromosome meiotic drive in the stalk-eyed fly, Cyrtodiopsis whitei

Wilkinson, GSS, M. I.,  Heredity,  87:17-24. 2001.

The cytological basis of X chromosome meiotic drive or sex ratio (SR) has been reported for several species of Drosophila but not for other species. Here we describe how sperm development in the stalk-eyed fly, Cyrtodiopsis whitei, influences progeny sex proportion, in order to determine if a common developmental mechanism could cause meiotic drive in these distantly related taxa. Because age has been found to affect the degree of segregation distortion in some Drosophila, we tested flies from six to 26 weeks of age. We find that spermatocyst bundles in SR males frequently contain incompletely elongated spermatid nuclei independently of male age. Older males have, however, more spermatocyst bundles in their testes than younger males. Abnormal spermatid elongation affects male fertility since SR males produce 74% as many progeny per week as ST males. The proportion of spermatocyst bundles with improperly elongated spermatid nuclei explains 71% of the variation in progeny sex proportion. After reviewing the literature on sperm development and meiotic drive, we conclude that the cytological basis of meiotic drive in diopsids closely resembles Drosophila. Across species in both groups, the production of fertile males is associated with less than half of all spermatids not elongating normally in a spermatocyst bundle. We discuss the possibility that frequency-dependent selection on male fertility could stabilize the drive polymorphism in these unusual flies.