Developmental temperature affects thermal dependence of locomotor activity in Drosophila

J Therm Biol. 2022 Jan;103:103153. doi: 10.1016/j.jtherbio.2021.103153. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


In their natural environments, animals have to cope with fluctuations in numerous abiotic and biotic factors, and phenotypic plasticity can facilitate survival under such variable conditions. However, organisms may differ substantially in the ability to adjust their phenotypes in response to external factors. Here, we investigated how developmental temperature affects the thermal performance curve for locomotor activity in adult fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster). We examined the thermal dependence of spontaneous activity in individuals originating from two natural populations (from tropical (India) and temperate climate zone (Slovakia)) that developed at three different temperatures (19 °C, 25 °C, and 29 °C). Firstly, we found that developmental temperature has a significant impact on overall activity - flies that developed at high temperature (29 °C) were, on average, less active than individuals that developed at lower temperatures. Secondly, developmental acclimation had a population-specific effect on the thermal optimum for activity. Whereas the optimal temperature was not affected by thermal conditions experienced during development in flies from India, developmental temperature shifted thermal optimum in flies from Slovakia. Thirdly, high developmental temperature broadened performance breadth in flies from the Indian population but narrowed it in individuals from the Slovak population. Finally, we did not detect a consistent effect of acclimation temperature on circadian rhythms of spontaneous activity. Altogether, our results demonstrate that developmental temperature can alter different parameters (maximum performance, thermal optimum, performance breadth) of the thermal performance curve for spontaneous activity. Since adult fruit flies are highly vagile, this sensitivity of locomotion to developmental conditions may be an important factor affecting fitness in changing environments.

Keywords: Acclimation; Developmental plasticity; Locomotion; Optimal temperature; Performance breadth; Thermal performance curve.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • India
  • Locomotion*
  • Phenotype
  • Slovakia
  • Temperature*