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J Genet. 2003 Dec;82(3):191-205.

Variation in adult life history and stress resistance across five species of Drosophila.

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


Dry weight at eclosion, adult lifespan, lifetime fecundity, lipid and carbohydrate content at eclosion, and starvation and desiccation resistance at eclosion were assayed on a long-term laboratory population of Drosophila melanogaster, and one recently wild-caught population each of four other species of Drosophila, two from the melanogaster and two from the immigrans species group. The relationships among trait means across the five species did not conform to expectations based on correlations among these traits inferred from selection studies on D. melanogaster. In particular, the expected positive relationships between fecundity and size/lipid content, lipid content and starvation resistance, carbohydrate (glycogen) content and desiccation resistance, and the expected negative relationship between lifespan and fecundity were not observed. Most traits were strongly positively correlated between sexes across species, except for fractional lipid content and starvation resistance per microgram lipid. For most traits, there was evidence for significant sexual dimorphism but the degree of dimorphism did not vary across species except in the case of adult lifespan, starvation resistance per microgram lipid, and desiccation resistance per microgram carbohydrate. Overall, D. nasuta nasuta and D. sulfurigaster neonasuta (immigrans group) were heavier at eclosion than the melanogaster group species, and tended to have somewhat higher absolute lipid content and starvation resistance. Yet, these two immigrans group species were shorter-lived and had lower average daily fecundity than the melanogaster group species. The smallest species, D. malerkotliana (melanogaster group), had relatively high daily fecundity, intermediate lifespan and high fractional lipid content, especially in females. D. ananassae (melanogaster group) had the highest absolute and fractional carbohydrate content, but its desiccation resistance per microgram carbohydrate was the lowest among the five species. In terms of overall performance, the laboratory population of D. melanogaster was clearly superior, under laboratory conditions, to the other four species if adult lifespan, lifetime fecundity, average daily fecundity, and absolute starvation and desiccation resistance are considered. This finding is contrary to several recent reports of substantially higher adult lifespan and stress resistance in recently wild-caught flies, relative to flies maintained for a long time in discrete-generation laboratory cultures. Possible explanations for these apparent anomalies are discussed in the context of the differing selection pressures likely to be experienced by Drosophila populations in laboratory versus wild environments.

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