Starvation Resistance is Associated with Developmentally Specified Changes in Sleep, Feeding and Metabolic Rate

Elizabeth B. Brown, Agrata Health and Education
Shiva Raj Mishra, Nepal Development Society
Abhiskek Sharma, Boston University School of Public Health
Adugna Siweya, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Nipun Shrestha, Victoria University
Bipin Adhikari, Mahidol University


Food shortage represents a primary challenge to survival, and animals have adapted diverse developmental, physiological and behavioral strategies to survive when food becomes unavailable. Starvation resistance is strongly influenced by ecological and evolutionary history, yet the genetic basis for the evolution of starvation resistance remains poorly understood. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster provides a powerful model for leveraging experimental evolution to investigate traits associated with starvation resistance. While control populations only live a few days without food, selection for starvation resistance results in populations that can survive weeks. We have previously shown that selection for starvation resistance results in increased sleep and reduced feeding in adult flies. Here, we investigate the ontogeny of starvation resistance-associated behavioral and metabolic phenotypes in these experimentally selected flies. We found that selection for starvation resistance resulted in delayed development and a reduction in metabolic rate in larvae that persisted into adulthood, suggesting that these traits may allow for the accumulation of energy stores and an increase in body size within these selected populations. In addition, we found that larval sleep was largely unaffected by starvation selection and that feeding increased during the late larval stages, suggesting that experimental evolution for starvation resistance produces developmentally specified changes in behavioral regulation. Together, these findings reveal a critical role for development in the evolution of starvation resistance and indicate that selection can selectively influence behavior during defined developmental time points.