Laboratory selection experiments are alluring in their simplicity, power, and ability to inform us about how evolution works. A longstanding challenge facing evolution experiments with metazoans is that significant generational turnover takes a long time. In this work, we present data from a unique system of experimentally evolved laboratory populations of Drosophila melanogaster that have experienced three distinct life-history selection regimes. The goal of our study was to determine how quickly populations of a certain selection regime diverge phenotypically from their ancestors, and how quickly they converge with independently derived populations that share a selection regime. Our results indicate that phenotypic divergence from an ancestral population occurs rapidly, within dozens of generations, regardless of that population's evolutionary history. Similarly, populations sharing a selection treatment converge on common phenotypes in this same time frame, regardless of selection pressures those populations may have experienced in the past. These patterns of convergence and divergence emerged much faster than expected, suggesting that intermediate evolutionary history has transient effects in this system. The results we draw from this system are applicable to other experimental evolution projects, and suggest that many relevant questions can be sufficiently tested on shorter timescales than previously thought.
The evolutionary forces shaping the ability to win competitive interactions, such as aggressive encounters, are still poorly understood. Given a fitness advantage for competitive success, variance in aggressive and sexual display traits should be depleted, but a great deal of variation in these traits is consistently found. While life history tradeoffs have been commonly cited as a mechanism for the maintenance of variation, the variability of competing strategies of conspecifics may mean there is no single optimum strategy. We measured the genetically determined outcomes of aggressive interactions, and the resulting effects on mating success, in a panel of diverse inbred lines representing both natural variation and artificially selected genotypes. Males of one genotype which consistently lost territorial encounters with other genotypes were nonetheless successful against males that were artificially selected for supernormal aggression and dominated all other lines. Intransitive patterns of territorial success could maintain variation in aggressive strategies if there is a preference for territorial males. Territorial success was not always associated with male mating success however and females preferred ‘winners’ among some male genotypes, and ‘losers’ among other male genotypes. This suggests that studying behaviour from the perspective of population means may provide limited evolutionary and genetic insight. Overall patterns of competitive success among males and mating transactions between the sexes are consistent with mechanisms proposed for the maintenance of genetic variation due to nonlinear outcomes of competitive interactions.
Recent studies with Drosophila have suggested that there is extensive genetic variability for phenotypic plasticity of body size versus food level. If true, we expect that the outcome of evolution at very different food levels should yield genotypes whose adult size show different patterns of phenotypic plasticity. We have tested this prediction with six independent populations of Drosophila melanogaster kept at extreme densities for 125 generations. We found that the phenotypic plasticity of body size versus food level is not affected by selection or the presence of competitors of a different genotype. However, we document increasing among population variation in phenotypic plasticity due to random genetic drift. Several reasons are explored to explain these results including the possibility that the use of highly inbred lines to make inferences about the evolution of genetically variable populations may be misleading. K E Y W O R D S :Drosophila, density-dependent selection, drift, experimental evolution, phenotypic plasticity.
There is not one systems biology of aging, but two. Though aging can evolve in either sexual or asexual species when there is asymmetric reproduction, the evolutionary genetics of aging in species with frequent sexual recombination are quite different from those arising when sex is rare or absent. When recombination is rare, selection is expected to act chiefly on rare large-effect mutations, which purge genetic variation due to genome-wide hitchhiking. In such species, the systems biology of aging can focus on the effects of large-effect mutants, transgenics, and combinations of such genetic manipulations. By contrast, sexually outbreeding species maintain abundant genetic polymorphism within populations. In such species, the systems biology of aging can examine the genome-wide effects of selection and genetic drift on the numerous polymorphic loci that respond to laboratory selection for different patterns of aging. An important question of medical relevance is to what extent insights derived from the systems biology of aging in model species can be applied to human aging.
Our intuitive understanding of adaptation by natural selection is dominated by the power of selection at early ages in large populations. Yet, as the forces of natural selection fall with adult age, we expect adaptation to be attenuated with age. Explicit simulations of agedependent adaptation suggest that populations adapt to a novel environment quickly at early ages, but only slowly and incompletely at later adult ages. Experimental tests for agedependent adaptation to a novel diet were performed on populations of Drosophila melanogaster. The results support the prediction that populations should perform better on an ancestral, long-abandoned diet, compared to an evolutionarily recent diet, only at later ages. D. melanogaster populations also perform poorly on a novel diet compared to an evolutionarily recent diet that has been sustained for hundreds of generations, particularly at earlier ages. Additional experiments demonstrate that the timing of the shift to better performance in our populations on the long-abandoned diet is dependent on when the forces of natural selection weaken in the evolutionary history of experimental populations. Taken together, these experimental findings suggest that the forces of natural selection scale the rate of adaptation to novel environments.
Insects and vertebrates have multiple major physiological systems, each species having a circulatory system, a metabolic system, and a respiratory system that enable locomotion and survival in stressful environments, among other functions. Broadening our understanding of the physiology of Drosophila melanogaster requires the parsing of interrelationships among such major component physiological systems. By combining electrical pacing and flight exhaustion assays with manipulative conditioning, we have started to unpack the interrelationships between cardiac function, locomotor performance, and other functional characters such as starvation and desiccation resistance. Manipulative sequences incorporating these four physiological characters were applied to five D. melanogaster lab populations that share a common origin from the wild and a common history of experimental evolution. While exposure to starvation or desiccation significantly reduced flight duration, exhaustion due to flight only affected subsequent desiccation resistance. A strong association was found between flight duration and desiccation resistance, providing additional support for the hypothesis that these traits depend on glycogen and water content. However, there was negligible impact on rate of cardiac arrests from exhaustion by flight or exposure to desiccant. Brief periods of starvation significantly lowered the rate of cardiac arrest. These results provide suggestive support for the adverse impact of lipids on Drosophila heart robustness, a parallel result to those of many comparable studies in human cardiology. Overall, this study underscores clear distinctions among the connections between specific physiological responses to stress and specific types of physiological performance.
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