Repeated stress exposure results in a survival-reproduction trade-off in Drosophila melanogaster

Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Mar 22;277(1683):963-9. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1807. Epub 2009 Nov 25.


While insect cold tolerance has been well studied, the vast majority of work has focused on the effects of a single cold exposure. However, many abiotic environmental stresses, including temperature, fluctuate within an organism's lifespan. Given that organisms may trade-off survival at the cost of future reproduction, we investigated the effects of multiple cold exposures on survival and fertility in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. We found that multiple cold exposures significantly decreased mortality compared with the same length of exposure in a single sustained bout, but significantly decreased fecundity (as measured by r, the intrinsic rate of increase) as well, owing to a shift in sex ratio. This change was reflected in a long-term decrease in glycogen stores in multiply exposed flies, while a brief effect on triglyceride stores was observed, suggesting flies are reallocating energy stores. Given that many environments are not static, this trade-off indicates that investigating the effects of repeated stress exposure is important for understanding and predicting physiological responses in the wild.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Survival Analysis