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Keywords:

  • body melanization;
  • thermotolerance traits;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • body color phenotypes;
  • altitudinal populations;
  • D. melanogaster

Abstract

Thermotolerance traits vary across geographical gradients but there is a lack of clinal variation in some Drosophila species. Thus, it is not clear whether thermotolerance or other correlated traits are the target of natural selection. In order to test selection responses, we investigated body melanization and thermotolerance traits in six altitudinal populations of Drosophila melanogaster. Based on rearing different geographical populations under uniform growth conditions at 21 °C (common garden experiments), clinal variations for cold resistance are in the direction opposite to heat resistance along an altitudinal gradient, that is darker flies from highland populations evidenced higher levels of cold resistance while lowland populations showed higher heat resistance. Phenotypic plastic responses for body melanization at 17–28 °C showed significant correlations with thermotolerance traits. At 17 °C, regression coefficients as a function of altitude are highly significant and positive for cold resistance but negative for heat knockdown. However, for flies reared at 28 °C, there is no elevational change in melanization as well as thermotolerance traits. Thus, both genetic and plastic changes of body melanization and thermotolerance traits suggest a correlated selection response. Further, within-population analyses of body melanization (based on dark, intermediate and light color phenotypes) showed significant associations with thermotolerance traits. Correlated variations in body melanization and thermal tolerances are associated with climatic thermal variability (Tcv) but not with Tmin. or Tmax. along an altitudinal gradient.