The effect of developmental nutrition on life span and fecundity depends on the adult reproductive environment in Drosophila melanogaster

C.M. May, A. Doroszuk, B.J. Zwaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Both developmental nutrition and adult nutrition affect life-history traits; however, little is known about whether the effect of developmental nutrition depends on the adult environment experienced. We used the fruit fly to determine whether life-history traits, particularly life span and fecundity, are affected by developmental nutrition, and whether this depends on the extent to which the adult environment allows females to realize their full reproductive potential. We raised flies on three different developmental food levels containing increasing amounts of yeast and sugar: poor, control, and rich. We found that development on poor or rich larval food resulted in several life-history phenotypes indicative of suboptimal conditions, including increased developmental time, and, for poor food, decreased adult weight. However, development on poor larval food actually increased adult virgin life span. In addition, we manipulated the reproductive potential of the adult environment by adding yeast or yeast and a male. This manipulation interacted with larval food to determine adult fecundity. Specifically, under two adult conditions, flies raised on poor larval food had higher reproduction at certain ages – when singly mated this occurred early in life and when continuously mated with yeast this occurred during midlife. We show that poor larval food is not necessarily detrimental to key adult life-history traits, but does exert an adult environment-dependent effect, especially by affecting virgin life span and altering adult patterns of reproductive investment. Our findings are relevant because (1) they may explain differences between published studies on nutritional effects on life-history traits; (2) they indicate that optimal nutritional conditions are likely to be different for larvae and adults, potentially reflecting evolutionary history; and (3) they urge for the incorporation of developmental nutritional conditions into the central life-history concept of resource acquisition and allocation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1156-1168
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • thrifty phenotype hypothesis
  • ischemic-heart-disease
  • dietary restriction
  • larval nutrition
  • caenorhabditis-elegans
  • resource-allocation
  • prenatal exposure
  • history evolution
  • food limitation
  • body-size

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