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Environ Pollut. 2004;127(1):145-55.

Genotype-specific responses of fluctuating asymmetry and of preadult survival to the effects of lead and temperature stress in Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati OH 45221-0006, USA. polakm@email.uc.edu


Although fluctuating asymmetry (FA) increases with exposure to certain types of environmental stressors such as temperature extremes, relatively little is known about the effects of interaction (e.g., synergism) between known sources of environmental stress on FA. Knowledge of such interaction effects, and of the magnitude of genotype-by-environment interaction, are of fundamental importance toward predicting the usefulness of FA as a bioindicator of environmental pollution. We tested for synergistic effects on FA between elevated temperature and exposure to lead, and examined FA responses simultaneously in four genetic strains of Drosophila melanogaster known to differ in their degree of developmental instability, and presumably in their buffering capacity. In the absence of heavy metal, bristle FA increased with temperature, but in the presence of lead, FA at high temperature (30 (degrees)C) was reduced to levels similar, or below, that at lower temperature (25 (degrees)C). This temperature by lead interaction was statistically significant, but paradoxical in that the disruptive effects of temperature appeared to be attenuated in the presence of the heavy metal. In no case was there a significant effect of lead on bristle FAs, despite documented assimilation of heavy metal by flies, and in no case was the genotype by environment interaction significant. Whereas lead treatment did not influence survival, survival was reduced at the high temperature, but significantly so only in one genetic strain (Oregon-R). There was no relationship between survival and FA across stress treatments within lines. Thus, any disproportionate stress-induced mortality in developmentally unstable classes (developmental selection) was unlikely to bias the FA results. Our results underscore the need for independent replication of significant findings before FA-based biomonitoring can be responsibly and effectively implemented. The results call for caution in using FA as a biomarker of stress, because stress factors may interact in complex and unpredictable ways, which could result in erroneous conclusions about real levels of stress present in field populations, under the unduly simplistic assumption that stress factors will act additively to increase FA.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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