An experimental evolution test of the relationship between melanism and desiccation survival in insects

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We used experimental evolution to test the 'melanism-desiccation' hypothesis, which proposes that dark cuticle in several Drosophila species is an adaptation for increased desiccation tolerance. We selected for dark and light body pigmentation in replicated populations of D. melanogaster and assayed several traits related to water balance. We also scored pigmentation and desiccation tolerance in populations selected for desiccation survival. Populations in both selection regimes showed large differences in the traits directly under selection. However, after over 40 generations of pigmentation selection, dark-selected populations were not more desiccation-tolerant than light-selected and control populations, nor did we find significant changes in mass or carbohydrate amounts that could affect desiccation resistance. Body pigmentation of desiccation-selected populations did not differ from control populations after over 140 generations of selection, although selected populations lost water less rapidly. Our results do not support an important role for melanization in Drosophila water balance. © 2016 Rajpurohit et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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