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Developmental constraints on an adaptive plasticity: reaction norms of pigmentation in adult segments of Drosophila melanogaster


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SUMMARY Variation of dark pigmentation according to developmental temperature was investigated in two geographic populations (France and India) with the isofemale line technique (20 lines for each population). The response curves called the reaction norms, were established in females for seven different segments: the mesothorax and abdomen segments 2–7 (Abd 2–7). In all cases the response curves were non-linear and had to be described either by a quadratic convex polynomial for thorax and Abd 2–5, or by a cubic polynomial for Abd 6 and 7. Among abdomen segments, increasing antero-posterior gradients were observed for several traits, including average pigmentation, overall phenotypic plasticity, the temperature of minimum pigmentation, and the curvature parameter of quadratic norms. Genetic correlations between abdomen segments were high when adjacent segments were considered, but became nil when more distant segments were correlated, suggesting that different pigmentation genes are expressed in the anterior and the posterior part of the abdomen. Characteristic values of reaction norms provided information either on trait value (i.e., the extension of pigmentation) or on plasticity. Correlations between plasticity and pigmentation were generally low and non-significant, suggesting their genetic independence. The overall darker pigmentation which is observed at low temperatures is assumed to be an adaptive plasticity. However, the differences which are evidenced among segments reveal strong interactions with developmental genes. These interactions are less likely to be a consequence of natural selection and are better interpreted as developmental constraints. The reaction norms analysis reveals the complexity of these interactions and should help, in the future, in the identification of the responsible thermosensitive genes.