Many ways to be small: different environmental regulators of size generate distinct scaling relationships in Drosophila melanogaster Academic Article uri icon

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  • Static allometries, the scaling relationship between body and trait size, describe the shape of animals in a population or species, and are generated in response to variation in genetic or environmental regulators of size. In principle, allometries may vary with the different size regulators that generate them, which can be problematic since allometric differences are also used to infer patterns of selection on morphology. We test this hypothesis by examining the patterns of scaling in Drosophila melanogaster subjected to variation in three environmental regulators of size: nutrition, temperature and rearing density. Our data indicate that different environmental regulators of size do indeed generate different patterns of scaling. Consequently, flies that are ostensibly the same size may have very different body proportions. These data indicate that trait size is not simply a read-out of body size, but that different environmental factors may regulate body and trait size, and the relationship between the two, through different developmental mechanisms. It may therefore be difficult to infer selective pressures that shape scaling relationships in a wild population without first elucidating the environmental and genetic factors that generate size variation among members of the population.


  • Shingleton, Alexander W
  • Estep, Chad M
  • Driscoll, Michael V
  • Dworkin, Ian

publication date

  • July 22, 2009