Correlated responses to artificial body size selection in growth, development, phenotypic plasticity and juvenile viability in yellow dung flies


Wolf U. Blanckenhorn, Zoologisches Museum, Universität Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland.
Tel.: +41 44 635.4755; fax: +41 1 44 635.4780;


Most life history traits are positively influenced by body size, whereas disadvantages of large body size are poorly documented. To investigate presumed intrinsic costs of large size in the yellow dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria; Diptera: Scathophagidae), we established two replicates each of three body size laboratory selection lines (small, control and large; selection on males only), and subjected flies of the resulting extended body size range to various abiotic stresses. Response to selection was symmetrical in the small and large lines (realized h2 = 0.16–0.18). After 24 generations of selection body size had changed by roughly 10%. Female size showed a correlated response to selection on male size, whereas sexual size dimorphism did not change. Development time also showed a correlated response as, similar to food limited flies, small line flies emerged earlier at smaller body size. At the lowest larval food limit possible, flies of all lines emerged at the same small body size after roughly the same development time; so overall phenotypic plasticity in body size and development time strongly increased following selection. Juvenile mortality increased markedly when food was extremely limited, large line flies showing highest mortality. Winter frost disproportionately killed large (line) flies because of their longer development times. Mortality at high temperatures was high but size-selective effects were inconsistent. In all environments the larger males suffered more. Initial growth rate was higher for males and at unlimited food. Small line individuals of both sexes grew slowest at unlimited larval food but fastest at limited larval food, suggesting a physiological cost of fast growth. Overall, extension of the natural body size range by artificial selection revealed some otherwise cryptic intrinsic juvenile viability costs of large size, mediated by longer development or faster growth, but only in stressful environments.