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J Insect Physiol. 2010 Apr;56(4):380-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.11.011. Epub 2009 Dec 2.

Phenotypic plasticity across 50MY of evolution: drosophila wing size and temperature.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, 21 Sachem St, New Haven, CT 06520-8105, United States.


We studied the response in wing size to rearing at different temperatures of nine strains of Drosophila representing six species. The species varied in their natural habitats from tropical to temperate and one cosmopolitan. The evolutionary divergence of the species spans 50 million years. While some quantitative differences were found, all species responded to temperature very similarly: females increased an average of approximately 11% and males approximately 14% when reared at 19 degrees C compared to 25 degrees C. The phenotypic plasticity in wing size in response to temperature appears to be a fixed trait in Drosophila across long evolutionary time and diverse ecological settings. This likely reflects the close relationship between wing area (and thus wing loading) and insect body mass that is a crucial factor for flight regardless of ecology and is, thus, maintained across long evolutionary time.

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