The evolutionary potential of diet-dependent effects on lifespan and fecundity in a multi-parental population of Drosophila melanogaster


The nutritional conditions experienced by a population have a major role in shaping trait evolution in many taxa. Constraints exerted by nutrient limitation or nutrient imbalance can influence the maximal value that fitness components such as reproduction and lifespan attains, and organisms may shift how resources are allocated to different structures and functions in response to changes in nutrition. Whether the phenotypic changes associated with changes in nutrition represent an adaptive response is largely unknown. Further, it is unclear whether the response of fitness components to diet even has the potential to evolve in most systems. In this study, we use an admixed multi-parental population of Drosophila melanogaster reared in three different diet conditions to estimate quantitative genetic parameters for lifespan and fecundity. We find significant genetic variation for both traits in our population and show that lifespan has moderate to high heritabilities within diets. Genetic correlations for lifespan between diets were significantly less than one, demonstrating a strong genotype by diet interaction. These findings demonstrate substantial standing genetic variation in our population that is comparable to natural populations and highlights the potential for adaptation to changing nutritional environments.