Evol Ecol Res 14: 803-819 (2012)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

The effect of developmental temperature fluctuation on wing traits and stressed locomotor performance in Drosophila melanogaster, and its dependence on heterozygosity

Anders Kjærsgaard1,2, Nguyet Le1, Ditte Demontis3, Zorana Kurbalija Novičič4, Volker Loeschcke1 and Cino Pertoldi1,5,6

1Department of Bioscience, Integrative Ecology and Evolution, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, 2Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland,  3Institute of Human Genetics, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, 4Institute for Biological Research ‘Sinisa Stankovic’, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia, 5Department 18/Section of Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark and  6Aalborg Zoo, Aalborg, Denmark

Correspondence: A. Kjærsgaard, Department of Bioscience, Integrative Ecology and Evolution, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade, Building 1540, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail: anders.kjaersgaard@biology.au.dk


Background: Natural environments fluctuate and all organisms experience some degree of environmental variance. Global climate models predict increasing environmental variance in the future. Yet we do not fully understand how environmental variation affects performance traits.

Questions: Does temperature fluctuation during development affect adult size and wing shape in Drosophila melanogaster? If so, are the effects predictable? Do they depend on heterozygosity? Do fluctuations in developmental temperature affect adult physiological performance at high temperature?

Methods: We tested the effect of one fluctuating (21°C/29°C) and several constant (21°C, 23°C, 25°C, 27°C, 29°C) developmental temperature regimes on three wing morphometric traits (wing length, wing width, and wing shape) in an experiment using three inbred lines of D. melanogaster and their first-generation hybrids. We also tested the effect of fluctuating and constant developmental temperature on adult locomotor performance at several high and stressful test temperatures (32°C, 34°C, 36°C, 38°C, 40°C).

Results: Performance mostly declined if the flies were reared under the fluctuating temperature regime versus the constant temperature regime with the same mean (25°C). Heterozygosity level also affected the traits investigated, with crossbreds usually having higher trait values. Crossbred genotypes compared across constant temperatures also showed greater plasticity in wing aspect.

Conclusion: The widespread use of constant developmental temperatures in laboratory experiments may lead to overestimation of performance.

Keywords: climate change, environmental variation, inbreeding depression, locomotor activity, non-linear reaction norm.

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