Reaction norms for developmental time and weight at eclosion in Drosophila mercatorum

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Abstract

We determined reaction norms for developmental time and weight at eclosion for 2 isozygous and 11 genetically mixed strains of Drosophila mercatorum in four culture media differing in yeast concentration. With decreasing yeast concentration, development was delayed, the weight of emerging flies decreased, and the phenotypic variance of both variables increased. Differences among stocks and significant stock × yeast interactions indicated genetic variance for both variables within environment and different phenotypic responses of stocks across environments. The phenotypic correlation between developmental time and weight was negative at low yeast concentrations and disappeared gradually with increasing yeast. The comparison of completely homozygous with genetically heterogenous stocks showed that most of the increase of variability with deteriorating environment was due to the changing expression of genetic variance. The genetic correlation between developmental time and weight turned from negative in poor to positive in rich medium, while the environmental covariance was negative in all media. Plotting the reaction norms in the developmental time-weight plane rather than separately for each trait reveals most of these results at a glance. It also suggests that much of the genetic variance might be additive, because an effect of the half-sib family structure inherent in the design is clearly visible in the plot. We interpret the pattern of changing variances and covariances, pointing out that the special growth physiology of Drosophila and the way environmental factors affect it must be taken into account. We briefly discuss the implications of changing genetic correlations among traits for the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in general.

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