When does diet matter? The roles of larval and adult nutrition in regulating adult size traits in Drosophila melanogaster

Gonçalo M. Poças, Alexander E. Crosbie, Christen K. Mirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Adult body size is determined by the quality and quantity of nutrients available to animals. In insects, nutrition affects adult size primarily during the nymphal or larval stages. However, measures of adult size like body weight are likely to also change with adult nutrition. In this study, we sought to explore the roles of nutrition throughout the life cycle on adult body weight and the size of two appendages, the wing and the femur, in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We manipulated nutrition in two ways: by varying the protein to carbohydrate content of the diet, called macronutrient restriction, and by changing the caloric density of the diet, termed caloric restriction. We employed a fully factorial design to manipulate both the larval and adult diets for both diet types. We found that manipulating the larval diet had greater impacts on all measures of adult size. Further, macronutrient restriction was more detrimental to adult size than caloric restriction. For adult body weight, a rich adult diet mitigated the negative effects of poor larval nutrition for both types of diets. In contrast, small wing and femur size caused by poor larval diet could not be increased with the adult diet. Taken together, these results suggest that appendage size is fixed by the larval diet, while those related to body composition remain sensitive to adult diet. Further, our studies provide a foundation for understanding how the nutritional environment of juveniles affects how adults respond to diet.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104051
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Appendage size
  • Body size
  • Body weight
  • Caloric dilution
  • Femurs
  • Macronutrient balance
  • Nutrition across life stages
  • Wings

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