Life span variation in 13 Drosophila species: a comparative study on life span, environmental variables and stress resistance

Janneke Wit, Volker Loeschcke, Vanessa Kellermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, heterogeneity of the environment has been suggested as an important player in the evolution of life span variation. Established ageing theories propose that life span variation is the result of coevolution with other traits, such as stress resistance. This study aimed to compare these alternative hypotheses by examining the relationship between four environmental variables and different types of stress resistance traits with life span in 13 Drosophila species originating from tropical, subtropical and temperate environments (ecotypes). Average life span was found to differ significantly both between species and sexes, but only male life span correlated with the environment and cold resistance. While controlling for phylogeny, the environmental variable precipitation seasonality and resistance against cold-induced stress explained most variation in male life span. Furthermore, male life span varied between species in a manner represented by environmental variables linked to the different ecotypes, such that tropical species lived longer and were less cold resistant. The current results suggest that general mechanisms underlying stress resistance and life span are unlikely. In addition, our results point to the environment independently shaping variation in life span and cold resistance rather than genetic interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1892-1900
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • ageing
  • phylogenetic constraints
  • sexual dimorphism
  • thermal adaptation
  • tropical species

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