Chill-coma tolerance, a major climatic adaptation among Drosophila species

Evolution. 2001 May;55(5):1063-8. doi: 10.1554/0014-3820(2001)055[1063:cctamc];2.


Most drosophilid species can be classified either as temperate or tropical. Adults of species were submitted to a cold treatment (0 degrees C) and then brought back to ambient temperature. They generally exhibited a chill coma and the time needed to recover was measured. We found in a set of 26 temperate species that recovery was rapid (average 1.8 min, range 0.15-4.9). In contrast, a long recovery time (average 56 min, range 24-120) was observed for 48 tropical species. A few species, like Drosophila melanogaster, are cosmopolitan and can proliferate under temperate and tropical climates. In 9 of 10 such species, slight genetic differences were found: a shorter recovery in temperate than in tropical populations. Comparing physiological data to phylogeny suggests that chill-coma tolerance has been a recurrent adaptation that is selected for in cold climates but tends to disappear under a permanently warm environment. This major climatic adaptation, evidenced in drosophilids, seems to occur in other insect groups also.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cold Climate
  • Coma / physiopathology
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Tropical Climate