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J Exp Biol. 2006 Aug;209(Pt 16):3155-63.

Age determination in individual wild-caught Drosophila serrata using pteridine concentration.

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School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville QLD 4812, Australia.


Fluorescence spectrophotometry can reliably detect levels of the pteridine 6-biopterin in the heads of individual Drosophila serrata Malloch 1927. Pteridine content in both laboratory and field captured flies is typically a level of magnitude higher than the minimally detectable level (mean(lab)=0.54 units, mean(field)=0.44 units, minimum detectable level=0.01 units) and can be used to predict individual age in laboratory populations with high certainty (r2=57%). Laboratory studies of individuals of known age (from 1 to 48 days old) indicate that while pteridine level increases linearly with age, they also increase in a linear manner with rearing temperature and ambient light levels, but are independent of sex. As expected, the longevity of laboratory-reared males (at least 48 days) is higher than the range of predicted ages of wild-caught males based on individual pteridine levels (40 days). However, the predictive equation based on pteridine level alone suggested that a number of wild-caught males were less than 0 days old, and the 95% confidence limits for these predictions based on the inverse regression are broad. The age of the oldest wild-caught male is predicted to fall within the range of 2 to 50 days. The significant effects of temperature and light intensity determined in the laboratory study (effect sizes omega2=14.3 and 20.4%, respectively) suggests that the calibration of the age prediction equation for field populations would be significantly improved when combined with fine-scaled studies of habitat temperature and light conditions. The ability to determine relative age in individual wild-caught D. serrata presents great opportunities for a variety of evolutionary studies on the dynamics of natural populations.

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