Complex constraints on allometry revealed by artificial selection on the wing of Drosophila melanogaster

Geir H. Bolstad, Jason A. Cassara, Eladio Márquez, Thomas F. Hansen, Kim van der Linde, David Houle, Christophe Pélabon in PNAS


Precise exponential scaling with size is a fundamental aspect of phenotypic variation. These allometric power laws are often invariant across taxa and have long been hypothesized to reflect developmental constraints. Here we test this hypothesis by investigating the evolutionary potential of an allometric scaling relationship in drosophilid wing shape that is nearly invariant across 111 species separated by at least 50 million years of evolution. In only 26 generations of artificial selection in a population of Drosophila melanogaster, we were able to drive the allometric slope to the outer range of those found among the 111 sampled species. This response was rapidly lost when selection was suspended. Only a small proportion of this reversal could be explained by breakup of linkage disequilibrium, and direct selection on wing shape is also unlikely to explain the reversal, because the more divergent wing shapes produced by selection on the allometric intercept did not revert. We hypothesize that the reversal was instead caused by internal selection arising from pleiotropic links to unknown traits. Our results also suggest that the observed selection response in the allometric slope was due to a component expressed late in larval development and that variation in earlier development did not respond to selection. Together, these results are consistent with a role for pleiotropic constraints in explaining the remarkable evolutionary stability of allometric scaling.

Published online before print 14 September 2015

Tags: PNAS
Published Sep. 17, 2015 10:18 AM - Last modified Sep. 17, 2015 10:18 AM