Love thy neighbour? Social and sexual accommodation in fruit flies

Dore, Alice (2020) Love thy neighbour? Social and sexual accommodation in fruit flies. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Many animals plastically adjust their reproductive phenotype in response to their social and sexual environment. A common example of this type of plasticity occurs when males tailor their reproductive effort to the risk and intensity of sperm competition. In this thesis, I studied reproductive plasticity in male Drosophila melanogaster in response to cues of sexual competition. I found some evidence that cues signalling the likelihood of male-male competition affected the morphology of male reproductive structures and wings differently at two developmental stages, suggesting a high degree of environmental sensitivity in these traits. However, these findings were not fully consistent, highlighting the limitations of proxies when measuring complex, multi-faceted traits. I also showed that reproductively plastic behaviours can evolve in response to the prevailing social/sexual environment. Male D. melanogaster that evolved under a high degree of male-male competition expressed longer overall mating duration, reduced courtship delivery and altered courtship repertoire, in comparison to males evolved under less intense competition. I investigated the role of redundancy in cues signalling male-male competition and showed that occluding one sensory modality did not reduce the ability of male D. melanogaster to detect rivals and express behavioural responses. However, responding to rivals by extending mating duration did not confer any clear fitness benefits under the conditions tested. Finally, I tested the hypothesis that responses to redundant environmental cues can be underpinned by redundancy at the gene expression level. I found preliminary evidence that quasi-equivalent behavioural responses to rivals by male D. melanogaster can be reached by alternative transcriptomic pathways. Overall, this thesis demonstrates the important and varied effects that the social and sexual environment can have on individual development, behaviour, fitness, and the evolution of populations. My findings highlight the important context-dependence of many key reproductive traits and suggest several important avenues for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2021 13:08
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2021 13:08


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