Effects of mitochondrial haplotype on pre-copulatory mating success in male fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster)

Rebecca E. Koch, Damian K. Dowling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


While mitochondria have long been understood to be critical to cellular function, questions remain as to how genetic variation within mitochondria may underlie variation in general metrics of organismal function. To date, studies investigating links between mitochondrial genotype and phenotype have largely focused on differences in expression of genes and physiological and life-history traits across haplotypes. Mating display behaviours may also be sensitive to mitochondrial functionality and so may also be affected by sequence variation in mitochondrial DNA, with consequences for sexual selection and fitness. Here, we tested whether the pre-copulatory mating success of male fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) varies across six different mitochondrial haplotypes expressed alongside a common nuclear genetic background. We found a significant effect of mitochondrial haplotype on our measure of competitive mating success, driven largely by the relatively poor performance of males with one particular haplotype. This haplotype, termed ‘Brownsville’, has previously been shown to have complex and sex-specific effects, most notably including depressed fertility in males but not females. Our study extends this disproportionate effect on male reproductive success to pre-copulatory aspects of reproduction. Our results demonstrate that mutations in mitochondrial DNA can plausibly affect pre-copulatory mating success, with implications for future study into the subcellular underpinnings of such behaviours and the information they may communicate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1396-1402
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • competitive mate choice
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • mitochondrial genetic variation
  • pre-copulatory behaviour

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