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J Insect Physiol. 2002 Jan;48(1):25-32.

Developmental plasticity of the locomotor activity rhythm of Drosophila melanogaster.

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Evolutionary Biology Laboratory, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, P.O. Box 6436, Jakkur, 560 064, Karnataka, Bangalore, India


We used four replicate outbred populations of Drosophila melanogaster to investigate whether the light regimes experienced during the pre-adult (larval and pupal) and early adult stages influence the free-running period (tau(DD)) of the circadian locomotor activity rhythm of adult flies. In a series of two experiments four different populations of flies were raised from egg to eclosion in constant light (LL), in light/dark (LD) 12:12h cycle, and in constant darkness (DD). In the first experiment the adult male and female flies were directly transferred into DD and their locomotor activity was monitored, while in the second experiment the locomotor activity of the emerging adult flies was first assayed in LD 12:12h for 15 days and then in DD for another 15 days. The tau(DD) of the locomotor activity rhythm of flies that were raised in all the three light regimes, LL, LD 12:12h and in DD was significantly different from each other. The tau(DD) of the locomotor activity rhythm of the flies, which were raised in DD during their pre-adult stages, was significantly shorter than that of flies that were raised as pre-adults in LL regime, which in turn was significantly shorter than that of flies raised in LD 12:12h regime. This pattern was consistent across both the experiments. The results of our experiments serve to emphasise the fact that in order to draw meaningful inferences about circadian rhythm parameters in insects, adequate attention should be paid to control and specify the environment in which pre-adult rearing takes place. The pattern of pre-adult and early adult light regime effects that we see differs from that previously observed in studies of mutant strains of D. melanogaster, and therefore, also points to the potential importance of inter-strain differences in the response of circadian organisation to external influences.

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