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PLOS ONE  2013 

Phenotypic and Genetic Effects of Contrasting Ethanol Environments on Physiological and Developmental Traits in Drosophila melanogaster

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058920

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Abstract:

A central problem in evolutionary physiology is to understand the relationship between energy metabolism and fitness-related traits. Most attempts to do so have been based on phenotypic correlations that are not informative for the evolutionary potential of natural populations. Here, we explored the effect of contrasting ethanol environments on physiological and developmental traits, their genetic (co)variances and genetic architecture in Drosophila melanogaster. Phenotypic and genetic parameters were estimated in two populations (San Fernando and Valdivia, Chile), using a half-sib family design where broods were split into ethanol-free and ethanol-supplemented conditions. Our findings show that metabolic rate, body mass and development times were sensitive (i.e., phenotypic plasticity) to ethanol conditions and dependent on population origin. Significant heritabilities were found for all traits, while significant genetic correlations were only found between larval and total development time and between development time and metabolic rate for flies of the San Fernando population developed in ethanol-free conditions. Posterior analyses indicated that the G matrices differed between ethanol conditions for the San Fernando population (mainly explained by differences in genetic (co)variances of developmental traits), whereas the Valdivia population exhibited similar G matrices between ethanol conditions. Our findings suggest that ethanol-free environment increases the energy available to reduce development time. Therefore, our results indicate that environmental ethanol could modify the process of energy allocation, which could have consequences on the evolutionary response of natural populations of D. melanogaster.

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