The effects of selection for cold tolerance on cross-tolerance to other environmental stressors in Drosophila melanogaster


Brent J. Sinclair, Department of Biology, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5B7, Canada. Tel: +1 519 661 2111 ext 83138; fax +1 519 661 3935; email:


Abstract  Cross tolerance, whereby tolerance to one environmental stress is correlated with tolerance to other stressors, is thought to be widespread in insects. We used lines of Drosophila melanogaster Meigen (Diptera: Drosophilidae) selected for survival at a 1-h exposure to −5°C to examine the extent to which this selection results in increased tolerance to other stresses, including high and low temperatures, desiccation and starvation. While selection improved tolerance to acute cold exposure and survival at −5°C, there was little effect of selection regime on tolerance to other stressors. There was no correlation between tolerances to any of the stressors, suggesting different mechanisms of tolerance. This supports arguments that correlations between stress tolerances during selection experiments with D. melanogaster may be coincidental. The magnitude of heat-hardening was apparently constrained by basal tolerance among lines, but the magnitude of the rapid cold-hardening response was not correlated with basal cold tolerance, implying that the relationship between inducible and basal tolerances differs at high and low temperatures.