The proximate sources of genetic variation in body size plasticity: the relative contributions of feeding behaviour and development in Drosophila melanogaster

Avishikta Chakraborty, Carla M. Sgro, Christen Kerry Mirth

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Body size is a key life-history trait that influences many aspects of an animal’s biology and is shaped by a variety of factors, both genetic and environmental. While we know that locally-adapted populations differ in the extent to which body size responds plastically to environmental conditions like diet, we have a limited understanding of what causes these differences. We hypothesized that populations could differ in the way body size responds to nutrition either by modulating growth rate, development time, feeding rate, or a combination of the above. Using three locally-adapted populations of Drosophila melanogaster from along the east coast of Australia, we investigated body size plasticity across five different diets. We then assessed how these populations differed in feeding behaviour and developmental timing on each of the diets. We observed population-specific plastic responses to nutrition for body size and feeding rate, but not development time. However, differences in feeding rate did not fully explain the differences in the way body size responded to diet. Thus, we conclude that body size variation in locally-adapted populations is shaped by a combination of growth rate and feeding behaviour. This paves the way for further studies that explore how differences in the regulation of the genetic pathways that control feeding behaviour and growth rate contribute to population-specific responses of body size to diet.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Oct 2021

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