Genetical Research

Research Article

The ecological genetics of growth in Drosophila 6. The genetic correlation between the duration of the larval period and body size in relation to larval diet.

Forbes W. Robertsona1

a1 Agricultural Research Council Unit of Animal Genetics, Institute of Animal Genetics, Edinburgh, 9

1. The low but regular positive correlation between body-size and the duration of the larval period in populations of D. melanogaster has been studied by selecting for large size or shorter development time on aseptic defined diets deficient in RNA and comparing the results with parallel selection on unrestricted yeast diets or on media in which RNA is not a limiting factor.

2. There is a striking contrast according to the nature of the diet during selection. On unrestricted diets and where RNA is adequate there is little or no evidence of correlation between the two characters, but on low RNA media there is a striking correlation whether selection is for large body size or shorter development time.

3. This contrast is accounted for in terms of particular changes in larval growth which can be divided into a first stage of growth to a critical size in the early 3rd instar and a second stage thereafter. The duration of the first stage can be greatly prolonged by inadequate diet but the duration of the later stage appears to be virtually unaffected by such variation although the amount of growth and hence final body-size, may be drastically reduced. The different diets which lead to presence or absence of correlation have enabled selection either to extend the growing period, so that the critical stage is reached later at a larger larval size, or to accelerate the growth rate in the later stage.

4. Variation in the final stage of growth predominates on unrestricted diets and is responsible for the greater part of the variation in body size in unselected populations. Stabilization of body-size about an intermediate optimum refers especially to growth in this later stage.

5. Lines selected for fast development on low RNA media are especially sensitive to minor nutritional variation. Probably only under rather special conditions is it possible to shorten the duration of the larval period and this is compatible with the importance of development time in fitness generally.

6. There is evidence that the restriction of early growth, in the 2nd instar, reduces the size of the 3rd instar mouth-parts. Such reduction is correlated with changes in adult size probably because smaller mouth-parts restrict food intake.

7. The pattern of larval growth suggests a flexible system which can be adjusted to different ecological conditions since the same body-size can be attained by adjusting the amount of growth effected before or after the critical stage. Differ ences in this respect will involve characteristic differences in reaction to environ mental variation and particular nutritional conditions are likely to influence the way in which adaptive changes are realized.

(Received July 30 1962)