Royal Society Publishing

Environmental stress, inbreeding, and the nature of phenotypic and genetic variance in Drosophila melanogaster

Kevin Fowler , Michael C Whitlock

Abstract

Fifty‐two lines of Drosophila melanogaster founded by single‐pair population bottlenecks were used to study the effects of inbreeding and environmental stress on phenotypic variance, genetic variance and survivorship. Cold temperature and high density cause reduced survivorship, but these stresses do not cause repeatable changes in the phenotypic variance of most wing morphological traits. Wing area, however, does show increased phenotypic variance under both types of environmental stress. This increase is no greater in inbred than in outbred lines, showing that inbreeding does not increase the developmental effects of stress. Conversely, environmental stress does not increase the extent of inbreeding depression. Genetic variance is not correlated with environmental stress, although the amount of genetic variation varies significantly among environments and lines vary significantly in their response to environmental change. Drastic changes in the environment can cause changes in phenotypic and genetic variance, but not in a way reliably predicted by the notion of ‘stress’.

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