Evolutionary changes of nonlinear reaction norms according to thermal adaptation: a comparison of two Drosophila species

C R Acad Sci III. 1997 Oct;320(10):833-41. doi: 10.1016/s0764-4469(97)85020-2.


While the adaptive significance of discontinuous reaction norms is generally accepted, the evolutionary interpretation of continuous response curves remains speculative, and the occurrence of internal constraints is often suggested as an explanation of experimental observations. In Drosophila melanogaster, various morphometrical traits exhibit convex reaction norms to growth temperature, with a maximum value within the developmental thermal range. We compared a cold-adapted species (D. subobscura) with a mid thermal range at 16 degrees C, to the warm-adapted D. melanogaster (mid thermal range at 22 degrees C) for three different morphometrical traits: wing and thorax length in both sexes and ovariole number in females. Maximum value temperatures were ordered in the same way for the three traits in both species: ovariole number > thorax length > wing length. Significant differences were also observed between the two species for the curvature parameter of the quadratic adjustment. The major observation was a significant lateral shift in the reaction norms: maximum values were observed at much lower temperatures in the cold-adapted species than in the warm-adapted one. The parallelism between mid thermal range variation and the position of the maximum value strongly suggests an adaptive displacement of the response curves. Natural selection may thus act not only on trait mean values but also on phenotypic plasticity and on the shape of reaction norms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Ovary / cytology
  • Phenotype
  • Thorax / growth & development
  • Wings, Animal / growth & development