Reproductive fitness of Drosophila is maximised by optimal developmental temperature

J Exp Biol. 2019 May 20;222(Pt 10):jeb202184. doi: 10.1242/jeb.202184.


Whether the character of developmental plasticity is adaptive or non-adaptive has often been a matter of controversy. Although thermal developmental plasticity has been studied in Drosophila for several traits, it is not entirely clear how it affects reproductive fitness. We, therefore, investigated how developmental temperature affects reproductive performance (early fecundity and egg-to-adult viability) of wild-caught Drosophila melanogaster We tested competing hypotheses on the character of developmental thermal plasticity using a full-factorial design with three developmental and adulthood temperatures within the natural thermal range of this species. To account for potential intraspecific differences, we examined flies from tropical (India) and temperate (Slovakia) climate zones. Our results show that flies from both populations raised at an intermediate developmental temperature (25°C) have comparable or higher early fecundity and fertility at all tested adulthood temperatures, while lower (17°C) or higher developmental temperatures (29°C) did not entail any advantage under the tested thermal regimes. Importantly, the superior thermal performance of flies raised at 25°C is apparent even after taking two traits positively associated with reproductive output into account: body size and ovariole number. Thus, in D. melanogaster, development at a given temperature does not necessarily provide any advantage in this thermal environment in terms of reproductive fitness. Our findings strongly support the optimal developmental temperature hypothesis, which states that in different thermal environments, the highest fitness is achieved when an organism is raised at its optimal developmental temperature.

Keywords: Acclimation; Body size; Developmental plasticity; Fecundity; Ovariole number; Thermal performance; Viability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Genetic Fitness*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • India
  • Reproduction
  • Slovakia