An experimental test of the relationship between melanism and desiccation survival in insects

An experimental test of the relationship between melanism and desiccation survival in insects

Subhash Rajpurohit, Lisa Marie Peterson, Andrew Orr, Anthony J. Marlon, Allen G Gibbs
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/012369

We used experimental evolution to test the ?melanism-desiccation? hypothesis, which proposes that dark cuticle in several Drosophila species is an adaptation for increased desiccation tolerance. We selected for dark and light body pigmentation in replicated populations of D. melanogaster and assayed traits related to water balance. We also scored pigmentation and desiccation tolerance in populations selected for desiccation survival. Populations in both selection regimes showed large differences in the traits directly under selection. However, after over 40 generations of pigmentation selection, dark-selected populations were not more desiccation-tolerant than light-selected and control populations, nor did we find significant changes in carbohydrate amounts that could affect desiccation resistance. Body pigmentation of desiccation-selected populations did not differ from control populations after over 140 generations of selection. Our results do not support an important role for melanization in Drosophila water balance.

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