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Redefining reproductive dormancy in Drosophila as a general stress response to cold temperatures

Lirakis, Manolis, Dolezal, Marlies, Schlötterer, Christian
Journal of insect physiology 2018 v.107 pp. 175-185
Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila simulans, cold, cold stress, dormancy, insect physiology, insects, oogenesis, overwintering, stress response, temperature
Organisms regularly encounter unfavorable conditions and the genetic adaptations facilitating survival have been of long-standing interest to evolutionary biologists. Winter is one particularly stressful condition for insects, during which they encounter low temperatures and scarcity of food. Despite dormancy being a well-studied adaptation to facilitate overwintering, there is still considerable controversy about the distribution of dormancy among natural populations and between species in Drosophila. The current definition of dormancy as developmental arrest of oogenesis at the previtellogenic stage (stage 7) distinguishes dormancy from general stress related block of oogenesis at early vitellogenic stages (stages 8 – 9). In an attempt to resolve this, we scrutinized reproductive dormancy in D. melanogaster and D. simulans. We show that dormancy shows the same hallmarks of arrest of oogenesis at stage 9, as described for other stressors and propose a new classification for dormancy. Applying this modified classification, we show that both species express dormancy in cosmopolitan and African populations, further supporting that dormancy uses an ancestral pathway induced by environmental stress. While we found significant differences between individuals and the two Drosophila species in their sensitivity to cold temperature stress, we also noted that extreme temperature stress (8 °C) resulted in very strong dormancy incidence, which strongly reduced the differences seen at less extreme temperatures. We conclude that dormancy in Drosophila should not be considered a special trait, but is better understood as a generic stress response occurring at low temperatures.