The sex-specific effects of diet quality versus quantity on morphology in Drosophila melanogaster

Alexander W. Shingleton, Josephine R. Masandika, Lily S. Thorsen, Yuqing Zhu, Christen K. Mirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Variation in the quality and quantity of nutrition is a major contributor to phenotypic variation in animal populations. Although we know much of how dietary restriction impacts phenotype, and of the molecular-genetic and physiological mechanisms that underlie this response, we know much less of the effects of dietary imbalance. Specifically, although dietary imbalance and restriction both reduce overall body size, it is unclear whether both have the same effect on the size of individual traits. Here, we use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to explore the effect of dietary food versus protein-to-carbohydrate ratio on body proportion and trait size. Our results indicate that body proportion and trait size respond differently to changes in diet quantity (food concentration) versus diet quality (protein-to-carbohydrate ratio), and that these effects are sex specific. While these differences suggest that Drosophila use at least partially distinct developmental mechanisms to respond to diet quality versus quantity, further analysis indicates that the responses can be largely explained by the independent and contrasting effects of protein and carbohydrate concentration on trait size. Our data highlight the importance of considering macronutrient composition when elucidating the effect of nutrition on trait size, at the levels of both morphology and developmental physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170375
Number of pages15
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Allometry
  • Dietary imbalance
  • Dietary restriction
  • Fruit fly
  • Macronutrient composition
  • Nutritional geometry

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